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Born Lucky Studios

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Some images or scenes overwhelm the our idea of the film. Be it something small, like the first time we see Jessica Rabbit or iconic like Robert Mitchum’s hands in Night of the Hunter, we sometimes focus on details and forget why they are important.

The Turkish Bath scene in Eastern Promises is such a scene.

The scene is the culmination of the film. In fact, its a perfect climax to all of the events and story lines up to that point. Unraveling why that scene takes place, from Nikoli’s (Viggo Mortensen) betrayal at the hands of Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl), which Semyon has no choice but to do unless he wants to sacrifice his own son, Kirill, which might not be a bad business decision, is almost as much fun as watching it.

We can’t forget Anna (Naomi Watts) and the baby? Their story line isn’t tied up here it takes a couple more scenes.

The Turkish Bath Bloodbath does allow for the circumstances that lead to end game for Semyon’s reign. The first circumstance happens right before the Bath. Semyon elects Nikoli to have Stars tattooed on his body. He does this to misdirect would be assassins. The assassins fail, but they do send Nikoli to the hospital. This allows Nikoli to confide in an unlikely source.

Coincidentally, Nikoli would not be available to be able to to help Anna when the baby is stolen by Kirill.

The baby is saved, and Nikoli takes power.

But what we remember is Nikoli – newly-tattooed, naked, attacked. We remember the incredible violence. How the scene releases the built up tension through an outpouring of violence that has hardly be duplicated. What is important about that scene is how and why the violence is important. And it is important. There is no way for the film to conclude in a rewarding way without this scene, and that’s why its there.

It has to be. Unlike most violence, this is not unnecessary. It is quite the opposite.

Eastern Promises is a masterpiece – from the acting to the story telling to what it decides that we the audience are smart enough to put together on our on. Its a blessing to have films this good made.

I haven’t mentioned Vincent Cassel, who plays Kirill. It’s a difficult part, what seems like an unlikable drunk and a weakling, comes across as the most human monster in the film.

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