Diamond Men

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Diamond Men

One of the puzzling paradoxes of independent film is that many personal, non-commercial, low-budget movies from young directors somehow end up as familiar as test-marketed, big-budget, risk-free popcorn fare. For example, Dan Cohen's Diamond Men: It's clearly a labor of love based partly on Cohen's experiences in the diamond trade. But it's also a near-remake of 1997's similarly scruffy and personal, albeit still fairly formulaic Traveller, which, like Diamond Men, dealt with the low-key misadventures of a seasoned veteran and his brash younger protégé as they hit the road in search of money and romance. There are essential differences between the two movies, however: Traveller deals with con men, while Diamond Men deals with, not surprisingly, diamond men. Traveller cast Mark Wahlberg as the brash upstart, while Diamond Men opts for his NKOTB sibling Donnie. Most importantly, Diamond Men boasts the presence of the excellent Robert Forster, who, in his best role since Jackie Brown, plays an aging diamond salesman being weaned from the road by a skittish home office after he suffers a heart attack on the job. The film gets off to a shaky start, with clumsy exposition and a few embarrassing scenes that establish, in the broadest fashion imaginable, the generation gap between Forster and sunglasses-wearing, skirt-chasing trainee Wahlberg. Wahlberg thankfully evolves, revealing welcome layers of sweetness and vulnerability beneath a smarmy, Return Of Bruno-era Bruce Willis veneer, while Forster is, as usual, a pleasure to watch. Still, the film grows increasingly implausible as it progresses, as a low-key character study gives way to a romance between courtly widower Forster and impossibly perfect woman-of-the-night Bess Armstrong. Even as the plot veers off course and into what plays suspiciously like wish fulfillment for aging lonelyhearts, Forster remains riveting, smoothing over the rough spots and redeeming scenes that would probably be cringe-inducing without him. Like most indie road movies, Diamond Men takes a scenic route heading nowhere, but Cohen, Wahlberg, and company are lucky to have an actor of Forster's magnetism to carry the film on his sturdy shoulders.