One of the best films of the year! Tight & tense
As the ruthless assassin Nikolai, Viggo Mortensen gives a heavily-layered, selflessly brave and completely mesmerizing performance. Never before has Mortensen been so compelling, vanishing into the thickly-accented front of a human monster. His unexpressive face constantly keeps the viewer guessing until his sudden and terrifying outbursts of violence show how much he is capable of. It is these sequences of violence in particular that are most noteworthy; one such scene features full-frontal nudity so risky and daring that very few other actors working today would even attempt it. Yet Mortensen is entirely assured, refusing to let those around him (and those watching the film) to see a moment of weakness or doubt. Watts and Mueller-Stahl give solid performances as well, with Mueller-Stahl especially making an impression as the aged head of the family, switching from tender and caring to cold and menacing in mere moments. The only weak link in the cast is Vincent Cassel as Mueller-Stahlís rebellious and outlandish son, giving another ranting and raving performance to add to his resume of international creeps. But apart from Cassel, the acting is handled subtly and masterfully on all accounts.
While this certainly isnít the Cronenberg of SCANNERS or VIDEODROME, there is no doubt that this is a Cronenberg picture. Itís possibly one of the most violent films of the year, its scenes of excessiveness made even more effective by the discomfort it invokes in the viewer. The scenes of graphic acts (and there are plenty) arenít meant to please, in the way a horror film might. Theyíre meant to disturb, and they accomplish the job almost too well. The script is nearly too tightly plotted, moving from one point to the next without much time for development. This becomes criminally obvious towards the end of the film, which is too vague for its own good. The build-up to the finale is excellent, yet when it arrives the viewer is asked to assume too much, and the lasting impact falters.
Full review at http://newmanscorner.blogspot.com