Connect with us
Eastern Promises
Image: Focus Features

Film

David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises and Creating the Perfect Fight Scene

Revisiting Eastern Promises

Creating cool fight scenes has never been easier in the current age of filmmaking. Special effects have evolved to the point where the eye can rarely discriminate between what is real and what isn’t, while choreography is much more sophisticated than it was in the past, and there’s no shortage of cash to throw at action films to get everything done just right. So with all of these advances going in modern film’s favor, why aren’t more fight scenes memorable?

Rumors swirled around the Toronto International Film Festival when Eastern Promises debuted in 2007, with word that director David Cronenberg had introduced perhaps the most perplexing fight scene into the collective consciousness of movie fans everywhere. No, I’m not referencing the opening to the film, where a graphic throat-slashing takes place, but a brutal knife fight that takes place later on. A film ostensibly about the transgressions that mark the life of criminals and the bubbles they live inside, Eastern Promises surprised festival-goers by setting a standard for cinematic fighting in the aughts.

Eastern Promises
Image: Focus Features

The scene begins with a slow pan into a London bathhouse where Nikolai (Viggo Mortensen) is sitting with only a towel to defend himself when two rival gangsters appear before him. Both men are quite large and intent on killing Nikolai with the knives in their possession. As the scene unfolded, my mind was rendered blank with fear. There is nothing glorious about Nikolai’s fighting style, it’s nothing like the slow-motion swordplay that Mortensen excelled with as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. He’s fighting like a scared animal, tiring after evading each stab of the blade, but managing to succeed in killing both of them.

How a treatise on gangsters inadvertently produced one of cinema’s most memorable fight scenes is anyone’s guess, but employing David Cronenberg is probably a start.

Eastern Promises (2007)

David Cronenberg’s career began with low-cost horror films in the 1970s, pairing the grotesque horrors of the body with the disturbing actions of the mind, creating a subgenre of thinking man horror. This pivotal moment in Eastern Promises is certainly one of the most subtle in Cronenberg’s oeuvre — especially when compared to James Woods using a gaping hole in his stomach as a VCR — but the scene is no less effective for its simplicity. A stabbing wouldn’t surpass the grotesque (and over-the-top) moments of body horror Cronenberg made famous in The Brood, Videodrome, or Scanners, but the relatability of it makes the fear all the more palpable.

Being completely vulnerable when under attack immediately connects the audience with Nikolai’s predicament. Cold steel and flesh juxtaposed against one another on a large screen force a shudder out of each viewer. In a way, it recalls another famous scene involving a naked protagonist: the infamous shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. The suspense doesn’t come from gore, just sheer intensity and fantastic directorial choices.

Eastern Promises (2007)

Many filmmakers have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on movies centered around lavish combat sequences, yet none have done what Cronenberg has. Even years later, exceptional hand-to-hand combat scenes in films like The Grandmaster and The Raid have a hard time matching up to Eastern Promises in terms of audience captivation. There is a dance-like quality to those films that elevate fighting into something truly beautiful, but for all of the awe that could be had, it doesn’t touch audiences in a way that the naked vulnerability of Viggo Mortensen does. Movie fans just don’t see those kinds of stakes that often — and they likely won’t again.

Colin Biggs

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published under our old brand, Sound On Sight.

Written By

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Facebook

Trending

Amy Ross Lopez Daughter: The Inspiring Story of Amy Ross Lopez’s Daughter’s American Idol Journey!

Celebrity

Emmy Russell’s Granddaughter: From the Shadows of Royalty to the Spotlight of American Idol!

Celebrity

Memphis Anchor Cause of Death Revealed! How Did She Die?

Celebrity

Robert Reid Cause of Death: Uncovering the Illness Responsible for His Passing!

Celebrity

Dexter Romweber Cause of Death: Exploring the Factors Contributing to His Passing!

Celebrity

Melissa McCarthy Weight Loss: The Ultimate Guide to Her Inspiring Weight Loss Journey!

Celebrity

Is Annie Osgood Gay? Unveiling the Reality Behind Her Alleged Sexual Orientation!

Celebrity

Martell Holt Net Worth Martell Holt Net Worth

Martell Holt Net Worth

Culture

Who Is Kelsey Cook’s Husband? Who Is Her Husband and How They Tied the Knot?

Celebrity

Joni Mitchell Announces First Los Angeles Concert In 24 Years

Celebrity

Benzino Drops Another Eminem Diss

Celebrity

Dagen McDowell Illness: Is She Battling a Serious Disease?

Celebrity

Is Elisabeth Moss Pregnant? Moss Addresses Speculation About Her Pregnancy!

Celebrity

Christian Petroni Wife: Discover His Wife, Kids, and Family Life!

Celebrity

Who Is Sam Purcell’s Wife? Meet His Wife and Children!

Celebrity

Who Is Erich Gonzales Husband? Everything You Need to Know About Her Marriage Life!

Celebrity

Connect