East Coast Journalist to HE: If Viggo Mortensen ain’t a front-runner for Eastern Promises, I don’t know who is.” HE to East-Coast Journalist: He’s not only not a front-runner — he may not even be a contender.

The centerpiece of his performance — a naked knife fight in a bathhouse — isn’t anyone’s idea of transcendent revelation. (Boiled down, it’s just Cronenberg being fetishy. ) The Russian machismo that permeates this film (the knives, tattoos, sneering attitudes towards women) along with the bowls of borscht and all the Russian culture crap makes this film an endurance test of the lowest order. It oozes ickyness through ever pore.

And that turnaround at the end — “I am naught actually slick-snarly Russian gangster with razor-cut hair….I yam actually [spoiler deleted]” — is an act of screenwriting desperation.