Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Naomi Watts, Viggo Mortensen, Vincent Cassel
Plot: A Russian teenager living in London who dies during childbirth leaves clues to a midwife in her journal that could tie her child to a rape involving a violent Russian mob family.
None of the characters who were members of the Vory v Zakone used a gun throughout the movie. The reason for this is that when doing research on Russian organized crime, David Cronenberg discovered that members of the Vory v Zakone typically prefer to use knives instead of guns. The rationale for this is that if Vory v Zakone members were arrested by police and questioned as to why they were in possession of such weapons, the suspects could evade suspicion by claiming that the knives were simply for linoleum cutting.
One day after shooting, Viggo Mortensen went to a pub without washing off his tattoos or even changing out of his costume. He claims that some of the patrons became very frightened of him, assuming he was a real member of Vory v Zakone.
Viggo Mortensen's elvish tattoo is visible on his left shoulder in the scenes where he has no shirt. He got it while shooting for the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
For the bathhouse fight scene, the scene was choreographed with the actors instead of stuntmen. The actors had to train in specific fighting styles chosen for their characters and it took two days to shoot on location in London. According to the DVD commentary, both Mortensen and Cronenberg agreed that Nikolai had to fight his would-be killers completely nude.
The scene where Semyon demonstrates his musical skills to the little girls was not dubbed. Armin Mueller-Stahl does play the violin in real life, and was a noted concert violinist in his youth.
The tattoos around Nikolai's (Viggo Mortensen) ankles read "Where are you going?" and "What the fuck do you care?" in Russian. Mortensen thought that they were hilarious, that 'one foot doesn't respect the other.'
To prepare for his role, Viggo Mortensen traveled alone to Moscow, St. Petersburg and the Ural Mountain region of Siberia, where he spent five days driving around without a translator. He read books on the gangs of the Vory v Zakone (thieves in law), Russian prison culture and the importance of prison tattoos as criminal résumés, and perfected his character's Siberian accent and learned lines in Russian, Ukrainian and English. During filming, he used worry beads made in prison from melted-down plastic cigarette lighters and decorated his trailer with copies of Russian icons.
Naomi Watts discovered she was pregnant with her son Alexander two weeks into shooting this movie. She initially tried to hide it, but costume designer Denise Cronenberg found out about it.
In the original script, Nikolai revealed himself to Anna as a double agent and Tatiana's baby, Christina was sent to live with her grandmother.
Armin Mueller-Stahl's character Semyon is based on the real-life Russian mafia boss Semion Mogilevich, born June 30, 1946 in Kiev, now Ukraine. Mogilevich did once own a restaurant just like Semyon in the film.