Sunday, July 24, 2016

Straight-to-home-video: Eric Barbier's heist thriller and love story, THE LAST DIAMOND

One of the more inventive and complicated heists the movies have attempted in quite some time, that of the fabled and (so far as I know) completely fictional Florentin diamond -- a huge and super-valuable stone said to be cursed -- is the plot point around which pivots just about everything in THE LAST DIAMOND, a pretty good French thriller-cum-love-story that ought to have been a lot better. The heist itself, as well as the build-up to it, are very well done: smart and tricky but allowing us to remain just ahead of things by a whisker.

Unfortunately, that heist occurs a little beyond the one-hour point -- with another 40 minutes or so to go. It's as though we've started back at square one. This is an unfortunate construction for a movie that needs to sustain its momentum but goes noticeably slack instead.
We stick with it because it has held us well enough for that hour, and so we hope against hope that it will bounce back. Its director and co-writer, Eric Barbier (at left: this is the first of his four films since 1991 to receive any kind of release here in the USA) handles his plotting, pacing and action scenes well enough, and he's cast his film well, too -- with Yvan Attal and Bérénice Bejo (both shown below) in the leading roles.

The beautiful Ms Bejo (above, left, and below, right) has graced a number of good movies at this point (though I think my favorite of hers is the one in Populaire, in which she plays so beautifully an intelligent French housewife of the 1950s), while M. Attal (above, right, and below, left) seem best at playing those rough-veneer/soft-beneath no-nonsense guys, just as he does in this film.

The movie is packed (a bit too-packed) with incidental characters, many of whom are important to the plot and the heist and some of whom get a bit lost in the proceeding shuffle. The film also begins as a relatively light-hearted romp -- until a murder (unplanned but seemingly necessary) occurs, followed some time after by an all-out massacre. This darkens The Last Diamond a bit more heavily than it can pleasingly bear.

Yet it's certainly fun to watch the plot points unfurl -- including disguise (above), love, and betrayal -- and performances down the line are on the mark. Some viewers have complained about the lack of chemistry between Attal and Bejo. Hmmmph! There's a lot more chemistry here than in just about any movie starring Tom Cruise and whichever of his co-stars those complainers might care to name.

Meanwhile, you can view The Last Diamond -- from Cohen Media Group and running 108 minutes -- as it makes its home video debut on DVD this Tuesday, July 26 -- for purchase or rental.

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