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Movie Fact #292 - September 3rd, 2021


While the 2007 film Eastern Promises is often a highly praised film for it's fictional narrative, it is also noted for its treatment of the subject of sex trafficking, and for its violence and realistic depiction of Russian career criminals, which includes detailed portrayal of the tattoos which indicate their crimes and criminal status. This is particularly clear through Viggo Mortensen's lead performance as Nikolai Luzhin as the actor studied Russian gangsters and their tattoos, even spending a lot of time with a Russian Mafia specialist, Gilly McKenzie (organized crime specialist for the UN) and also consulting a 2000 documentary on the subject called The Mark of Cain. According to the New York Daily News, the tattoos were so realistic that diners in a Russian restaurant in London fell silent out of fear, until Mortensen revealed his identity and admitted the tattoos were for a film. From that day on he washed off his tattoos whenever he went off the set. Mortensen said of the significance of the tattoos:

I talked to them [authentic gangsters and Gilly McKenzie] about what they meant and where they were on the body, what that said about where they'd been, what their specialties were, what their ethnic and geographical affiliations were. Basically their history, their calling card, is their body.

The only believed-to-be inaccurate detail was the crucifix on Nikolai's chest which was once believed to be inappropriate for a mob chauffeur, but it is accurate because during his vor ceremony it is discovered that he was a thief and left his regular life behind at 15. The result is an Oscar-nominated performance by Mortensen and a film often hailed as one of the best of the 21st century! Stay tuned!

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