Review: DIABLO

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SHOCK reviews horror/western hybrid DIABLO.

From the moment we first see him on-screen, it’s clear that Scott Eastwood is his father’s son; they look identical, especially here, in the confines of Lawrence Roeck’s horror/western hybrid DIABLO, where Eastwood younger has been blow-dried and stubble-coifed to look exactly like his famous father Clint in one of his myriad celebrated spaghetti oaters.

But the comparisons between generations stops at the physical as, sadly, the actor lacks his dad’s acting chops and, whenever he opens his mouth, the audience rolls its eyes. Indeed Eastwood is “The Bad” in DIABLO but the movie is far from ugly. In fact, it’s a rather beautiful and innovative bit of opulent lower-budget mythmaking that, like last years superior but equally genre-mashed western BONE TOMAHAWK, uses the tropes of the cowboy flick to delve a bit deeper into the heart of human darkness.

Eastwood stars as Jackson, a civil war vet whose wife has been kidnapped (like BONE TOMAHAWK, DIABLO also sets its plot in motion by riffing on John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS), propelling him on a meandering journey to Mexico to find her. Along the way, his investigation is hampered by the appearance of a black-clad gunslinger named Ezra (THE HATEFUL EIGHT’s Walton Goggins), who cruelly kills anyone Jackson tries to connect with, the two men doing a kind of verbal dance that suggests there’s a deeper connection between them.

It’s probably a spoiler to suggest that DIABLO is trying to ape Alan Parker’s masterpiece ANGEL HEART, the relationship between Jackson and Ezra a kind of riff on the Harry Angel/Louis Cyphre dynamic, but that’s okay because Roeck doesn’t seem to be terribly concerned about keeping the movie’s big reveal under his Stetson. DIABLO’s strength lies within its atmosphere in which lonely men wander eye-filling, sun-kissed landscapes that are very often splashed in torrents of blood. Said vistas are captured by John Carpenter’s frequent collaborator Dean Cundey (HALLOWEEN) who cheats the obviously careful budget by using extremely long shots, basking in the beautiful scenery (the movie was shot in Alberta, Canada) and making, like all good westerns should, nature a character.

DIABLO is not a great film by any stretch but it is stylish. Goggins steals the movie as a reptilian force of dressed-to-the-nines death and LETHAL WEAPON vet Danny Glover shows up to add class and some much needed humanity to the picture. This is Roeck’s second feature and, while not a flashy or daring director, he shows a steady, sturdy sensibility behind the lens.

Again, the only real stumble in DIABLO and what keeps it from being totally satisfying, is Eastwood. It’s a great gimmick to have the spawn of one of the most iconic western film stars in history as your lead desperado, but it’s a stunt that backfires here. In the middle of the film, I just wanted to watch HANG ‘EM HIGH. The character of Jackson is the core of the picture and it carries a dramatic gravitas that Eastwood just can’t carry convincingly.

Still, DIABLO is well-crafted and worth a look. Perhaps your take on its lead will be different than mine…

DIABLO is now in theaters and on VOD.

 

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Weekend: Aug. 22, 2019, Aug. 25, 2019

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