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'Diamond Men'

Characters, story gleam in indie 'Diamond Men'

Friday, March 15, 2002

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Watching "Diamond Men" cold -- no reviews, no peek at the press kit, no buzz check -- is like finding a real stone in a pouch of cubic zirconia sparklers.

'Diamond Men'

RATING: R in nature for partial nudity, sex, language, subject matter.

STARRING: Robert Forster, Donnie Wahlberg

DIRECTOR: Daniel M. Cohen

WEB SITE: www.diamondmen.com



Set and filmed in Pennsylvania, it stars Robert Forster as Eddie Miller, a successful jewelry salesman for 30 years. His job is to slide behind the wheel of his Lincoln Town Car and travel to small, main-street jewelry stores and move his company's line of merchandise. He must be discreet and wary; if anyone knew what was in that black case he carries, he might be robbed or worse.

As the story opens, Eddie suffers a heart attack. He recovers and returns to work three months later, but no insurance company will cover him to go on the road alone with $1 million in goods.

Eddie, burdened by mortgage payments and bills from his late wife's illness, can't afford to quit or retire. He agrees to train his replacement, Bobby Walker (Donnie Wahlberg), a brash young man who previously filled vending machines and has none of his elder's style, dignity, knowledge or ability to read a customer.

But as the men are forced to spend hours together -- in the car, with clients, at meals, in the same hotel room or suite -- they open up and learn to like each other. Bobby quickly realizes he needs to listen and learn from Eddie, and the widowed salesman is slowly drawn out of his shell.

"Diamond Men" tracks them week by week, as Eddie and Bobby encounter surprises, both welcome and unwelcome. By the time the movie ends, both men have been transformed by their experiences in ways you might not have anticipated.

Daniel M. Cohen, a Lancaster resident whose grandfather and father were diamond men, wrote, produced and directed this independent film, opening today at the Regent Square Theater. Cohen is on familiar turf and seems to like and respect the characters he's created.

Pennsylvanians, especially, will get a kick out of some of its locations and lines (Bobby insists small-town women are open to his sexual advances since they have nothing better to do -- "it's not like they live in Harrisburg"). Cohen even mentions Pittsburgh in an illuminating tidbit sure to get a big laugh.

"Diamond Men" rides on the chemistry between Forster and Wahlberg and they complement each other like a loose heirloom stone and a new, perfectly sized setting. Forster's Eddie is all reserve and old-school manners, while Wahlberg's Bobby is an antsy amalgam of street smarts, insecurity masquerading as overconfidence and a genuine measure of concern for his mentor.

Filling smaller roles are Bess Armstrong, Jasmine Guy, George Coe and Kristin Minter, who made "The Bread, My Sweet" in Pittsburgh. She shows a little more skin here -- a couple of scenes are set in a brothel -- than she did there.

"Diamond Men," by turns amusing, touching and surprising, isn't a diamond in the rough. It's ready for the jeweler's loupe right now.

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