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Diamond Men

Starring Robert Forster, Donnie Wahlberg, Bess Armstrong and Jasmine Guy
Written and Directed by Daniel M. Cohen
no website

IN SHORT: Fine for the arthouse. Lacking the final "wow" to make it a bigger hit. [Not MPAA Rated but the film does carry the warning "Due to subject matter, language and partial nudity, Diamond Men is suggested for Mature Audiences". 102 minutes]

We know a wee bit about the diamond business as our uncle was in it. The door to the company he worked in was kept locked. The door behind the receptionist was kept locked. The hall to his office had two doors in the way, locked, as were the doors to his office (he had two, inside and out). The windows were vertical strips of bulletproof plastic, none wide enough that you could squeeze through if you had managed to climb up the sheer twenty six floors of building to get at them. How security minded is the diamond business? My uncle dumped a million dollars worth of 'em into my cupped hands and then casually informed me that I was holding a million dollars worth of [crap]. Diamonds so "worthless" that they were fit only for phonograph needles . . . this was a long time ago.

Still, a million bucks is a million bucks. Imagine the lot of the guys who lug the good stuff -- diamonds fit for jewelry -- from town to town in a big case in the trunk of their car. A million dollars worth of "samples" is still a million dollars and these salesmen would be tempting targets, if anyone on the wrong side of the law knew what they were carrying. Such is the life of Eddie Miller (Robert Forster), thirty years on the road selling diamond jewelry to stores in the smaller towns of Pennsylvania. Eddie carries a nondescript sample bag, drives a nondescript car and keeps his nondescript black suit well pressed. There is nothing about Eddie to call attention to his gig except that his heart goes thud at the beginning of writer/director Daniel M. Cohen's Diamond Men.

Three months later, Eddie finds himself right shit out of luck when his company won't stand up for him against their insurance company, which refuses to cover the veteran salesman with a heart glitch. The company doesn't fight too hard -- Eddie gets a very high commission and, though they won't say so to his face, management feels it's in their best interest to go with a newbie salesman. One who doesn't get profit sharing. Eddie is given the option of training his replacement, Bobby Walker (Donnie Wahlberg), after which "maybe" something can be worked out.

Eddie isn't stupid about what that "maybe" means. It means he's toast but he's got house payments to make and no real options. He could approach competing companies but, with no insurance company willing to write a million dollar policy on a salesman with a bad heart, he won't have much luck and he knows it. He also knows that Bobby Walker is a real piece of work. Walker filled pretzel and snack vending machines in his last gig; cheated on his application and basically looks at this glamour job as a great way to pick up chicks at every sleazy dive in every two bit town on the route.

So goes this buddy story, as one man loosens up and another learns responsibility. In between is the Altoona Riding Club, the best little whorehouse in Pennsylvania. Jasmine Guy runs the joint with a heart of gold and the occasional stern glance. Eddie is, initially, revolted by the joint (actually, it's not the joint, it's a surprise we'll not describe) but is soon comforted by a closer to his age hooker (Bess Armstrong). It's a helluva way to meet true love, but it works.

Diamond Men is an fine character piece. There are some minor bits about Bobby's involvement with the Altoona Riding Club which could have been better developed and a surprise at the end wasn't "big" enough -- though it's satisfying enough -- for us. The strength here is in the character work by all the actors and that's first rate.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Nine Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Diamond Men, he would have paid . . .


dateflick for those beyond teendom. If you're old enough to remember Bess Armstrong from teevee stardom (half the reviewers in our screening were -- pant pant pant) than you're in the proper demo.

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