Before reinventing himself with the bare-knuckle drama of 2005's A History of Violence, David Cronenberg was best known for creating brain-searing cinematic images of exploding heads, violent parasites, and videogames made of flesh. Now the director returns with another naturalistic film, a look at some truly scary Russian mobsters living in London. Has the creator of classic creepfests like Dead Ringers and The Fly officially left his old ways behind? ''All of my movies have dealt with crime in the sense of transgression,'' Cronenberg says. ''In the last two, it's been more traditional. But creatively, there's a real continuity amongst the films.'' So, not even one more man-fly creature? For old time's sake? ''You get bored with yourself,'' he says. ''I think it's good to get out of your own rut.''
Cronenberg's search for fresh material led him to a script by Oscar nominee Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things), in which a half-Russian midwife (Naomi Watts) becomes entangled with one of the Russian Mob's most infamous crime families. Viggo Mortensen costars as a steel-eyed gangster; his performance and one indescribably intense scene in particular is sure to be among the most talked-about this year.
Despite the film's ''normal'' subject matter, Vincent Cassel, who plays the scion of the Mafia clan, says the director still put his unique stamp on the material. ''You have forbidden things in the movie, but it's more about what you think you're seeing than what you really saw,'' he says. ''In that sense, it's a very David Cronenberg movie.''