Good artists don’t deserve excuses when they fail, but explanations. Ignoring or dismissing a film’s manifold flaws—or perversely inflating them into virtues—does the exact opposite of what is intended: instead of revealing more about the artist’s work, it merely distorts it, sometimes beyond recognition. An artist’s flaws are as much a part of the work as his strengths, and to banish that dialectic to the back of the frame is to negate the crucial element of struggle within a film, the problems and challenges—whether of his own making or otherwise—which the filmmaker has to surmount. Auteurism, if it is anything at all, is an active process, not simply a passive “expression” of a filmmaker’s sensibilities. To pretend otherwise is to engage in boosterism, not criticism, however synonymous the two have become.
David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises is a failed film. And it fails for a reason which many critics consider banal and irrelevant (a good indication of its continuing truth): the script is Bad. Writer Steve Knight is evidently seeking to continue pursuing, after Dirty Pretty Things, unvarnished, gritty authenticity by diligently carpentering together banalities and clichés, leaving just enough room at the joints for the film’s narrative progression to make no sense.
Click here to read Andrew Tracy's review of David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises.