Eastern Promises Broken

One film I was really looking forward to getting from my DVD Rental-by-post was Eastern Promises, the UK version of the Godfather but with Russians. Knowing a fair bit about Russians and being married to one plus with all the Oscar buzz and positive reviews, I sat back with the wife only be totally disappointed by the films lack of authenticity.

Understandably, the members of the Oscar’s panel and film critics aren’t likely to be Russian, so may not spot these things, but after ten minutes of watching I was on IMDB to realise my fears that not one of the actors in the film was Russian. In fact the leading Russians in the film (where they speak a fair bit of ‘Russian’) were Viggo Mortensen (American) and Vincent Cassel (French). It was like watching Dick van Dyke play an Englishman in Marry Poppins again – painful.

With all the Russians that reside in the UK, both with acting qualifications and as a target audience for this film, it was a massive flaw for the film. In fact most of the actors weren’t from the country they were representing. Naomi Watts, who was the stand out performer for me, may have been born in the UK but grew up in Australia and has the accent in real-life too – although she had her best English accent on for most of the film. Her English Mother was played by an Irish actress (ok, doesn’t count) and her Russian uncle was played by a Pole. Painful.

If that wasn’t enough there was about one Russian name in the credits (pronunciation coach) which is probably why half the Russian phrases were just made up. Then my real bug-bear with any script: two foreigners, alone, speaking in English rather than their own language – especially about secretive information. What was worse with this film was they would speak Russian to each other at some points and then English in others. Sometimes alternating in the same conversation. I’m not a picky person (I don’t complain about animals being able to talk American in children’s films etc) but this film was supposed be set in reality. Painful.

Viggo Mortensen got nominated for an Oscar. He’s a good actor but the nomination was probably because he’s an American trying to play a Russian. I’m sure a Russian could have done the same job (better accent/language) and wouldn’t have got a nomination. I don’t think it would have been difficult getting Russian actors in this film (cheaper too!) and then everyone would enjoy it. It would have got a lot more DVD sales as there are a lot of Russians in this country (and world!).

I then made the mistake of turning over to see the last five minutes of She’s The Man. Oh my God. It was a film about a talented girl who is trying to play football (soccer) for an American boy’s team and has just been found out to be a girl (the breasts, long hair, girly run, and group baths hadn’t given it away yet). I could tell the premise from the first 30 seconds of flicking over so fuck knows what the first 85 mins were about! Vinny Jones extends himself as a leather-jacket wearing London thug and the rest was just, well, painful.

In the first scene I watch there is a conversation between her and the captain in which the captain has a fully packed 20,000 crowd behind him while she has an empty training pitch behind her. They then play on and the multiple camera shots and angles show they are now just on a training pitch – what happened to the stand with 20,000?(!!). The fact that this super girl of football can’t even run properly, let alone kick a ball (she goes on a solo run where all the guys hilariously fly out of her way) makes this almost a comedy in itself. They even get a stunt double to take the last minute penalty, who is not only a foot taller than the original actress but actually looks like a man in a wig.

No doubt budgets and organisational constraints will be argued for both films but I feel if you are going to make a script into a film then make sure you can pull it off – don’t waste the opportunity.

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3 responses to “Eastern Promises Broken

  1. So much for my idea to rent Eastern Promises. Was hoping for better but maybe I’ll leave this one on the shelf. Thanks from us at http://www.bentpage.wordpress.com.

  2. I actually quite enjoyed Eastern Promises and though Viggo and Vincent Cassel gave really good performances. I also don’t know any Russians so maybe I’d feel differently if I did, but I think this was clearly a art house/mainstream borderline film where they wanted big names, hence the casting. My only real issue with it was that due to the way it was shot (not just the setting) it kind of felt like an episode of Eastenders with russian gangsters in.

  3. Nothing against the acting or the story etc. Mine was a gripe at the fact that hardly any Russians were involved in this film thus letting down the many Russians that would go and see it, with dodgy accents and made-up language.

    Whatever genre, I feel you should always try to be true to your subject. It wasn’t a few cameos like a James Bond villain, it was the lives of Russians and not even the minor Russians were so. Especially as I know there are lots of Russian actors in the UK.

    I don’t think other people would have a problem apart from the other holes we’ve mentioned. This was a complaint from someone who knows something about the subjects. A lot of people will be seeing this film because of their links/interests with Russia. A lot of these people will experience the same.

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