News that the sequel to Eastern Promises was one of the few pieces of news that really bummed me out when it made the rounds late 2012. The first film was one of my top ten for 2007 and consider it one of the better films about organized crime in the 21st century. A sequel to this film wasn’t needed, but most fans of the film wanted one just to see a furthering of the storyline between Viggo Mortensen’s character and that of Vincent Cassel’s character.
While the sequel may not be happening there’s still hope that it will get resuscitated in the future. Until that happens let’s take a look at what has to be one of the most realistic fight scenes on film. It’s the infamous (or famous depending on how you feel about the scene) Russian bath house scene near the end of the film. The scene sees Viggo Mortensen’s character of Nikolai Luzhin set upon by a couple of Chechen hitmen in the bath house where he proceeds to fight for his life in the most vulnerable fashion anyone can ever find themselves in.
Cronenberg has always been one of my favorite filmmakers and I continue to believe that his work body of work throughout his career puts him in the upper echelon, if not the elite level, of filmmakers living and working today. This fight scene has nothing glamorous about it. The cool factor that some attribute to the scene just emphasizes Cronenberg’s recent observation about the hypocrisy of those who denounce violence yet look at the violence he creates on film and call it art.
I consider this a scene I love just for the base simplicity of the scene itself. It’s primal and almost Darwinian in the lengths a person will go through to keep themselves alive for one second more. The scene also reminds me why Viggo Mortensen remains one of this era’s most underrated and greatest actors. Yes, it’s just a fight scene, but he gives so much into making it authentic that one could almost believe that his life was in danger and he did the fight for real (in fact Mortensen did injure himself so much during the several takes of the scene that his bruises afterwards became a problem for the make-up department who had to apply his vory v zakone tattoos every day).