Diamonds


             After suffering what was considered a career-ending stroke in 1996,
     Kirk Douglas makes his return to the screen in a tailor-made role in the road
     movie
Diamonds. One only wishes that the project had been worthy of this
     legendary performer.

             Douglas plays aged Polish prizefighter Harry Agensky which allows
     director John Asher to intercut footage of the actor in
Champion in much the
     same way Steven Soderbergh incorporated footage of a young Terrence Stamp
     in
The Limey. Now living in rural Canada with his son Moses, Harry is visited
     by his other son Lance (Dan Aykroyd) who has issues about his father's
     approval. Lance is determined not to make the same mistakes with his own
     son Michael (Corbin Allred) but clearly communication between these men is
     a key problem. In order to foster better relations, Michael, intrigued by a tale
     Harry recounts about a thrown boxing match, a payoff in diamonds and the
     possibility they still exist in a Las Vegas house, suggests a trip to Nevada.
     Despite some initial misgivings, Lance agrees and the adventure begins.
     
             Undoubtedly, Asher and screenwriter Allan Aaron Katz envisioned a
     picaresque romp with amusing moments and a big theme of reconciliation
     but something got lost in the execution.
Diamonds strives too hard and
     adopts an approach that borders on the maudlin. The writer and director
     never miss an opportunity for an easy gag -- as in Harry's slurred speech
     causing a run-in with a border guard -- or Harry taking the wheel to drive
     erratically. Perhaps the lowest point is when the trio discuss sex in a
     restaurant in Las Vegas and Harry crows out loud in embarrassing detail of
     his desire for carnal pleasures. Watching an old pro like Douglas spout such
     sophomoric dialogue is painful.

             A segment in a whorehouse comes in a close second, only because it
     reduces Lauren Bacall to a tart-tongued madam. While she and Douglas
     (reunited on screen for the first-time since 1950's Young Man With a Horn)
     strike sparks in their scenes together and elevate the trite dialogue by sheer
     virtue of their chemistry that still proves potent, it is not enough to rescue
     the film. The requisite happy ending also feels forced and unrealistic.

             Not since Sean Connery, Dustin Hoffman and Matthew Broderick played
     three generations in 1989's Family Business has a trio of actors not even
     remotely resembled one another as Douglas, Aykroyd and Allred. As noted,
     Douglas struggles gamely to offer a rounded performance and attempts
     to succeed on the magnitude of his screen history. Aykroyd is saddled with
     the one-note role of the uptight journalist, an overachiever who feels that
     whatever he does is not enough to please the old man. In a very
     embarrassing moment, the overweight Aykroyd enjoys a romp with a
     hooker and all of sudden loosens up -- as if all his troubles could be traced
     to a good romp in bed. Allred, an actor with mostly sitcom credits, does         
     
what he can with an underwritten role. His own experience with a prostitute
     (Jenny McCarthy, who gamely tries to make something out of a cliché) is also
     poorly staged.

             Watching these actors who have all shone in various other media
     struggle and fail to make something credible out of this mishmash is perhaps
     the saddest thing of all. On the one hand, one wants to applaud Douglas for
     taking a risk, but one can't help wishing it was in a much more deserving
     vehicle.


                                                     Rating:              D -
                                                     MPAA Rating:    PG-13
                                                     Running time:   91 mins.
© 2008 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.