The first thing that I'll say about Eastern Promises, since it seems to set itself up for such comparisons, was that it struck me as being much more solid and consistent than A History of Violence which did not impress me much. The latter movie had its moments, but when Mortensen's character went back to take care of business, it struck me as just plain silly.
When I read a review about what they're promoting as the instant-classic knife fight in the bath house in Promises, I feared it would happen again. But I had no real complaints here. Long fight scenes simply bore me regardless (wish I could fast forward), but people seem to like them for some reason. I guess I would have to add that I don't appreciate Cronenberg's emphasis on hitting you in the face with the graphic brutality, but I suppose a case could be made that it's better than white-washing the violence as if it's not messy at all.
The strength of the movie was the juxtaposition of the relatively innocent world of Anna (Watts) and the dark world of Nikolai (Mortensen), and the way that Anna courageously and with realistic struggles impacts that dark and powerful world. Both worlds come across well, though they both also appear pretty grim and lifeless. London does not come across looking like a very joyful place.
As this all happens, the sense of mystery and intrigue unfold well and keep you interested. In the end, the relative realism (not that I would have a clue about the accuracy of the Russian mob life) which is a strength also ensures that it's an hour and a half of living in a dark, dull, brutal world that is, understandably, just no fun to experience. So I'll give it a *** and a grudging mug up. Vic, there's little question that you'll like it more.