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December 6, 2011

7

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

7 Comments Post a comment
  1. Dec 6 2011

    I’m glad to be reminded of this. After 10 years I’d forgotten the plot, until your review brought it back to mind, but I still clearly remembered how good Forster (especially) and Wahlberg were and how much I liked their characters’ evolving mentor and pupil relationship.

    “Jackie Brown” is actually my favorite of Tarantino’s films, and Forster is a lot of the reason for that.

  2. Richard Winters
    Dec 6 2011

    I enjoyed Robert Forster in ‘Medium Cool’, which is a very unique and avante-garde 60′s movie. He is also real good in his film debut ‘Reflections in a Golden Eye’ in which he serves as a very integral character to the story even though has no lines of dialogue.

    He also tours the country as a motivational speaker and is considered quite good. He has even done seminars for major corporations to help motivate employees and increase production.

  3. Dec 6 2011

    I was going to mention Reflections in a Golden Eye. I was also going to review a few months back was was overwhelmed by it; I only saw it for the first time a few months back. It’s a staggeringly powerful film and I was surprised to hear that people find Brando’s performance in it to be comic. I thought that it was heartbreaking.

    And Jackie Brown, much like Pulp Fiction, is a film that I can watch from any point and continue it all the way through to the end. I don’t think that Tarantino will ever be able to make a better film than Pulp Fiction or Jackie Brown but his filmography is terrific regardless. And of all of his films, I only dislike one: Reservoir Dogs. I think it stinks. I even watched it twice to make sure that it stinks.

  4. Richard Winters
    Dec 6 2011

    Yes, Marlon Brando gives an outstanding performance in that film especially at the end when he displays all of his inner emotions while sitting alone in his room at night without using any dialogue. The only problem I had with that film is that Liz is a bit annoying with her affected southern accent and it was supposed to take place in the south, but it was filmed in France and you can clearly tell.

    Another film that stars Forster that has achieved cult status and is from the 80′s is ‘Alligator’ about a baby alligator that gets flushed down the toilet and then grows to giant proportions while feeding off the waste in the sewers and then comes back to the surface and terroizes the city of Chicago. It was written by John Sayles.

    Also, I liked ‘Resevoir Dogs’ and I thought Tarantino’s best effort was the ‘Kill Bill’ movies.

  5. Dec 7 2011

    My problem with Reservoir Dogs is that Tarantino introduces a concept from early on, which works well. None of the criminals know who one another is and are color coded, so that they can’t tattle tell on each other. But as the film progresses, we see that they do all know each other and we have no reason so feel any tension. Everybody died, the end. I thought that it was crap but most people that’d watched it love it. So I’m a Reservoir Dogs anomaly.

    The Kill Bill saga is magnificent, vol. 2 being even better than the first. I like Death Proof a lot, especially seeing that it houses one of Kurt Russell’s best performances, and Inglourious Basterds is another small masterpiece. I can’t wait for Tarantino’s Django Unchained.

    @Reflections in a Golden Eye, I didn’t know that the film was shot in France. And I know that Liz Taylor’s character was supposed to be annoying but that comes with the territory. Ridiculously rich people are usually bored in life and can get rather annoying, and no one plays that better than Liz Taylor. :O)

  6. Richard Winters
    Dec 7 2011

    Maybe because you are Canadian and that is why you didn’t notice. Unlike Toronto temparatures in the south get into the 90′s and 100′s just about every day and no one would ever be wearing long sleeve shirts and heavy clothing in the summer. They might though in France where the summers are usually cool. The clothing of the characters was not appropriate for the climate. There was other things like no kudzu hanging from the trees, which you see in abundance down there as I have been there.

    ‘Inglorious Bastards’ is another great one. I look forward to the release of ‘Django Unchained’ as well.

  7. Dec 7 2011

    I am originally Israeli so your argument works even better now. :O)
    And I’ve never been to the South aside from Florida, and further south like the Caribbean and Mexico, so I wasn’t looking for signs while watching the film; you’re right.

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