Diamond in the rough

Diamond Men

Directed by Daniel Cohen

Starring Robert Foster and Donnie Wahlberg

The opening scene of this sweet, innocuous film from writer/director Daniel Cohen cleverly epitomizes the character of the film’s main protagonist, traveling diamond salesman Eddie Miller (Robert Forster). As Eddie disdainfully stares at a passing van that’s bumping some new techno song, he suddenly clutches his chest and sinks to the ground.

The scene implies that this loud modern music is the cause for his heart attack. For the 50-something Eddie, a methodical man who prefers Clifford Jordan’s jazz stylings and who clings stubbornly to his traditional ways, the music represents all that is new and wrong in a world that has changed around him and passed him by.

This idea is reinforced in the following scene when Eddie learns that he is no longer insurable to carry his diamond line, and that he must break in his own replacement. His replacement, a young, brazen, new kid on the block named Bobby (played by the young, brazen, former New Kids On The Block member Donnie Wahlberg) at first appears to be the living incarnation of the opening scene’s techno music, and the Odd Couple relationship is established.

What follows is the inevitable clashing of the pair’s individual ideologies, and the give-and-take that results is the best part of the film. Eddie provides a father figure for Bobby, teaching him the business and saying paternal things such as, “That kind of music will rot your brain.” Bobby attempts to loosen up the sexually repressed Eddie by becoming a sort of philanthropic pimp, trying to hook him up with girls, and saying things like, “You don’t turn down pussy, man. It’s just not natural.”

Bobby’s attempts lead the pair to the Altoona Riding Club, a brothel whose employees ultimately provide the various plot twists in the film and underscore the film’s underlying theme of sex-as-currency. This is where the film begins its downward slide from enjoyable buddy picture to overly contrived caper film.

The film’s “surprise” ending is anything but, and although the narrative wends logically from one plot point to the next, it all seems too pat, too facile. However, Forster’s trademark understated performance, and the general likeability of the film’s characters, save Diamond Men from descending into cinematic schlock.

-Christopher Yocum

 

Diamond Men opens Friday, Feb. 8 at the Bell Auditorium.