The Russian mafia seems to have supplanted the Italian kind in the popular imagining of the violent criminal world. It has long been a staple of TV crime shows like Law & Order, but David Cronenberg gave it the most impressive and terrifying embodiment yet in Eastern Promises. The film, set in London, is a strikingly globalized production, with a Canadian director and English screenwriter (Steven Knight) and actors who are Danish-American (Viggo Mortensen), British (Naomi Watts), German (Armin Mueller-Stahl), French (Vincent Cassel), Polish (Jerzy Skolimowski), and Irish (Sinéad Cusack). Yet the film somehow maintains a strong semblance of authenticity, thanks to strong performances. Mortensen, long a favorite of mine, gives an intensely compelling, and Oscar-nominated, portrayal of a Russian undercover agent infiltrating the mob. His celebrated battle in the steam bath, in which he, naked and unarmed, is attacked by two well-clothed thugs carrying linoleum knives should never let you take another two-against-one battle in a James Bond film seriously. (Or not until Daniel Craig does it in the nude.) Mueller-Stahl demonstrates once again that one can smile and smile and be a villain, and Cassel steals scenes with his portrayal of Mueller-Stahl's careless, dissipated weakling of a son. My only complaint about Eastern Promises is a rather saccharine ending to Watts's portion of the story. The story of Mortensen's character ends inconclusively, with his apparent ascension to the role of boss of the mob, a risky position for an undercover agent. A sequel has been proposed and postponed, and at last report seems to be dead.