CRIME DRAMA; 1hr 40min
STARRING: Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts
Crime scene: from left, Mortensen and Olegar Fedoro
Viggo Mortensen is so chilled as Nikolai, the driver-slash-factotum for a London-based Russian crime family, that he could be clipping his nails rather than cutting the fingers off a murdered corpse. The actor has travelled this ambiguous road before, in 2005’s A History of Violence, also directed by David Cronenberg. This time, however, there is no doubting Nikolai’s immersion in a sewer of organised crime — just the degree involved.
Headed by grandfatherly monster Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and with their plush restaurant as a cover, the family conducts its filthy covert business as a member of the Vory V Zakone criminal fellowship (an actual organisation). This is not a world into which midwife Anna (Watts) has any desire to stray. But when a Russian teenager dies in childbirth, leaving a highly compromising diary, the space between dark and light begins to narrow.
There is a certain cold appeal to the workings of ice-blooded, high-echelon crime, especially with actors of this knock-out calibre. Cronenberg’s silky exercise in menace is a downward dive into a transfixing riptide of ferocity, deception and mistrust.