Directed by Lawrence Roeck.
Starring Scott Eastwood, Walton Goggins, Camilla Belle, Adam Beach, Joaquim de Almeida, Samuel Marty, and Danny Glover.
A young civil war veteran is forced on a desperate journey to save his kidnapped wife.
The casting alone ought to be enough to generate mild interest in Diablo. Not only does it star the always charismatic Walton Goggins (who can currently be seen in theaters with The Hateful Eight playing a blatant racist with so much charm viewers can’t be faulted for being enthusiastically won over), but it also features Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood, following in the footsteps of his father by hoping to make a mark with Westerns.
The major fundamental problem with Diablo isn’t so much that Scott Eastwood contains nowhere near the talent level of his legendary father yet in his young career, but rather that the movie is ineptly crafted from virtually every aspect of filmmaking. Yes, stoic and stern speaking cowboys are a staple of the genre, and I really wouldn’t have it any other way, but the dialogue on-hand does nothing to create a character we can invest in or hope to rescue his wife from presumably bandit Mexicans.
Diablo confusingly just begins in the thick of everything, without reasoning for the kidnapping or exposition to explain anything. It’s almost like entering the theater 15 minutes after the movie has started, except you haven’t. Jackson’s (Scott Eastwood) home is under attack, his wife is being abducted, and for some reason other than the fact that he is the protagonist, director Lawrence Roeck assumes that it’s all enough to depict him as someone worth rooting on or analyzing.
Roeck also displays a clear struggle of what to actually do with the plot. When he isn’t showcasing some admittedly stunning but far too self-indulgent looking panoramic or overhead shots of green pastures and snowy mountain vistas, he’s usually placing Jackson on a random, frustratingly contrived collision course with all sorts of characters, ranging from Native Americans (they serve no purpose and send Jackson on an aesthetically ugly first-person perspective drug trip that is as completely pointless as it sounds), former Civil War partners, and a bloodthirsty over-the-top piece of work murderer portrayed by the aforementioned Walton Goggins. It’s a scenery chewing performance that provides some much-needed energy to an otherwise relatively lifeless film.
Still, Goggins gets nowhere near enough screen-time to elevate Diablo into an entertaining experience. Even worse, the twist surrounding his character couldn’t be anymore noticeably telegraphed. It’s not as simplistic as the character being a manifestation of the devil, but still something rather obvious that falls in line with the underlying psychological themes of the movie, that like everything else, are poorly handled and presented. Furthermore, Goggins is so endearing, even when playing ruthless killers, that in scenes together, he makes Scott Eastwood come across even more amateurish and flat.
The revolver toted shootouts are also fairly bland, featuring numerous horrible editing shots of characters firing a bullet, only for the camera to shift focus on whomever is being attacked to show them keeling over in death. There’s no rawness or naturalists flow to the proceedings, resulting in the climax’s high body count signifying nothing of substance. Like Scott Eastwood’s rather wooden performance, the same goes for the nameless and un-characterized victims of his revenge. The budget also shows, as these brief action sequences often contain laughably bad sound effects; the bullets almost sound like effects from a Nintendo 64 game.
At roughly 80 minutes, Diablo is at least merciful with its boredom, but it’s going to be tough to find worse films in 2016, and it’s only January. Diablo fails massively at mustering up a purpose for the audience to care about the plot or its lead characters, and by the time the reveals come you will have both already predicted them and have mentally checked out of the film, having written it off as a psychological misfire on PTSD. The biggest question though, is why anyone would actually choose to watch this Western when both The Hateful Eight and The Revenant are still fairly new theatrical releases and absolutely amazing films. And if you have seen those, go watch Slow West, Bone Tomahawk… just anything but Diablo unless you need sleeping assistance.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★