XFINITY On Demand: Leonard Maltin’s Picks ‘Shadowboxer’ and ‘Eastern Promises’

Film critic Leonard Maltin. ((Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

Film critic Leonard Maltin. ((Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

For those who like their movies off the beaten path, I have two to recommend right now.

Shadowboxer‘ is the first film directed by Lee Daniels—who went on to make ‘Precious’. Helen Mirren is cast as a hit man—or hit woman, if you prefer. She and Cuba Gooding Jr. do their work with cool efficiency, but on their latest and supposedly final assignment she suffers a moment of guilt and instead of pulling the trigger, sets herself an enormous challenge—at great personal risk.
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If I told you more about the story, or about Mirren’s unique relationship with Gooding I’d be doing you a disservice. This film got some pretty bad reviews when it opened but I like it. It may not be the most plausible film in the world, but I think it’s creating a kind of heightened reality and is meant to be more of a fable than a slice of life.

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On the other hand, “Eastern Promises” was a critical smash. It marked a fruitful reunion between director David Cronenberg and actor Viggo Mortensen, who fared so well with A History of Violence. Violence figures prominently in this story, too. Naomi Watts plays a London nurse who’s present when an underage mother dies in childbirth. She searches the girl’s purse for clues to her identity, and follows a trail to a Russian restaurant run by the genteel Armin Mueller-Stahl. There is more to him than meets the eye, which also might be said about his volatile son, Vincent Cassel, and Mortensen, a low-level driver who becomes involved with Watts. Cronenberg shot his film in London but you won’t see any picture postcard views—it’s a dark, claustrophobic and brutal world he creates, so real you can almost smell it.

These are strong, original, and provocative films, worth checking out if you haven’t seen them before.

See more of Leonard Maltin’s picks here. Note: These picks, which start at $0.99, may not be available in all areas. Discover more on XFINITY On Demand.

The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.


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