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"Blood Diamond"

Directed by Edward Zwick.
Written by Charles Leavitt.
Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly and Arnold Vosloo.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  12/14/06


When it comes to the man that directed "Glory", "Courage Under Fire" and "The Last Samurai", I had to see "Blood Diamond" because the man normally pays such a good amount of attention to detail and historical accuracy.  Being set in Africa only got me more intrigued; the violence in 1999 Sierra Leone diamond trading and gang vs. government warfare makes for an interesting backdrop.

African diamond smuggler Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio, surprisingly good with his white-African stylings) is running rocks for some high-end shady characters in London when he gets picked up in Liberia when the film opens.  After being sent to a local jail, he gets bailed out by his shady associates but meets someone while in the slammer:  Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a poor worker in Sierra Leone who was abducted by rebels and forced into diamond-sifting labor in the outdoor mines of his country.  When the mine he was working in is hit by military soldiers and his captors arrested, everyone is thrown into the same jail as Archer...where it is learned that Vandy may have knowledge of a 100-carat "blood diamond", which might be the big-money item that will allow Archer to sell out and retire from his dangerous lifestyle.  Archer helps bail Vandy out so that the two can accomplish their goals through each other: Archer can help Vandy find his family, and Vandy can help Archer find the big rock.  With the help of a reporter (Jennifer Connelly), the adventurous threesome find trouble all over the continent.

Filmed mainly in South Africa, Mozambique, Sierra Leone and the UK, "Blood Diamond" looks like an extravagant production, although if you've seen Zwick's other films (even in his New York City doomsday scenario "The Siege"), all of his films feel like epics and this one is no exception.  It's a wild ride, but one that resonates because of the undercurrent of the Vandy backstory--after he is separated from his family, his oldest son (Kagiso Kuypers) is picked up and trained as a child soldier, one who becomes the kind of soulless AK-47 killing machine that you just KNOW is being raised somewhere else in a war-torn country right now.  Can you imagine drinking, smoking, watching porn and killing innocent civilians all by the time you are 12?  If you can, you've got problems, but for me, I got into the story real quick-like and the mix of action/adventure and storytelling (for at least the Vandy portion of the tale) was fantastic.

The bits with Archer and a possible relationship with the reporter (both personal and professional, as the reporter needs leads on a story around the dirty diamond business) aren't as well done; it doesn't feel fresh and the chemistry between DiCaprio and Connelly doesn't have much of a chance to develop, because it feels fake AND because their characters spend a lot of time getting shot at.  (Hard to flirt with someone when RPGs are flying down the street towards your location.)  This doesn't consume a lot of the film's run time but it's enough to still make you occasionally wish those scenes would move a little quicker.

Otherwise, I thought "Blood Diamond" was solid, which is a bit of a surprise for me, because despite a strong trailer I wasn't that fired up to see, I'm happy to be surprised by this one.  In what feels like one of the slowest December movie periods ever, make a date with this one if you like your movies a little bloody.

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09