DVD of the Week – Review of Diamond Men (2000)
by NIR SHALEV
Eddie Miller (Robert Forster) is a weathered traveling diamond salesman, but wouldn’t change that for the world. After his company begins downsizing and he suffers a mild heart attack, Eddie threatens to leave the company with all of his accounts. They come to an agreement that if he trains the “new kid,” for a month or six weeks, he can then have a better position in return for staying with the company. And, possibly, then some.
The new kid is Bobby Walker (Donnie Wahlberg). Sporting hip sunglasses, a souped-up car, and a light hop in his step, Bobby is fresh, and to Eddie, annoying. The film then takes the shape of a road trip film, shot in and around Pennsylvania. Eddie and Bobby travel to a few small towns and sell the latest diamond lineups for Eddie’s decades old accounts. He has to teach Bobby everything that he knows but he first gives him attitude so that Bobby would realize that he needs to want to learn instead of simply waiting around for lessons.
As the film progresses, Bobby becomes the comic relief and Eddie remains the wise old man. Weathered and worn, Eddie doesn’t take guff from anyone and his lessons are written in stone. But Bobby worries for him, having heard that his wife had passed away earlier that year and he decides to take Eddie to a “friend” of his who runs a massage parlor/bordello. Hilarity ensues and the film goes on, but… there’s more to it than meets the eye.
This is a special kind of film. Yes, it contains a bit of adult language here and there and some nudity, but its heart is in the right place. And because it’s an independent film we, the audience, cut it some slack when it at first feels cliched. However, the cliches disappear half way through because the screenplay utilizes the cause and consequence type of storytelling and, much like in Ridley Scott’s Matchstick Men (2004), this film keeps going forward all the time. When a terrible situation occurs, the film treats the situation as people would in the real world and the story continues moving forward.
Robert Forster was nominated for an Oscar for his performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown (1997), and rightly so, and his characters in that film and in Diamond Men are similar. The main difference is that in Jackie Brown he is a bail bondsman and the film is almost entirely dramatic and in Diamond Men, his character sells diamonds on the road and the film is mostly light and fun. But it’s nice to see him re-live that type of character.
Donnie Wahlberg does a fine job of portraying Bobby as, at first, a narcissist and egocentric womanizer. As Bobby begins to respect Eddie he sort of becomes a younger version of him; sort of. The Bobby that we know is still always there but we begin to respect and like him more, and Wahlberg is convincing throughout.
This film has a heart and it never steps wrong. It’s a low-budget, independent film that was shot on low grade film but it’s never off-putting because the performances and screenplay are terrific. This is a seldom heard of title, for obvious reasons, but also not surprisingly, most of the critics enjoyed it immensely, as I did. I’ve watched it more than once because it’s a great pick-me-up. Find this film somewhere and watch it. It’s a breath of fresh air.
DVD special features are a few deleted scenes and a commentary track, in case anyone wishing to become an indie filmmaker needs a few pushes in the right direction.
New releases this week: Cowboys & Aliens, The Debt, The Hangover Part II, The Help, Mr. Popper’s Penguins