The Boston Phoenix

DIRECTED BY: John Mallory Asher

REVIEWED: 02-21-00

The last Kirk Douglas movie I saw was the woeful Oscar (1991), in which he played a man who rose from the dead to slap Sylvester Stallone in the face. That would have been a more respectable swan song for his career than Diamonds. In it he plays Harry "The Polish Prince" Agensky, an ex-welterweight champ (cue in scenes from The Champion) recovering from a stroke who heads to Reno to find a cache of diamonds. The gimmick, of course, is that Douglas himself suffered a stroke several years ago, and the effects are painfully apparent in this return to the screen. His courage may be inspiring. Nonetheless, his performance takes on the air of a freak show daring you not to love it. All of which would have been acceptable had the rest of the movie -- the direction, the screenplay, the other actors -- not seemed to have suffered a stroke as well. In Diamonds, ineptitude is equaled only by cynicism.

Forgoing the lawnmower of The Straight Story, Harry tools into town in a convertible, accompanied by his son Lance (Dan Aykroyd, bloated and sad) and grandson Michael (Corbin Allred, insufferable). Their tri-generational bonding undergoes numerous tantrums and a trip to a cathouse run by Sin-Dee (Lauren Bacall, why?). It's hard to say which scenes are more painful: Harry's emetically mawkish monologues before mirrors, or his grotesquely clichéd dialogue with Sin-Dee after he fails to make it with four of her best. And the diamonds? They had been given to Harry years ago for throwing a fight. In this bout, Douglas never had a chance.

--Peter Keough

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