Friday, August 12, 2016

Dark Diamond: Robbing the Family Jewels

Pier Ulmann is out to punish the people who maimed his late father’s paw. They happened to be the diamond-dealing relatives he never knew. As far as the resentful son is concerned, any diamond that flows through their Antwerp brokerage is a blood diamond. However, he intends to make them pay where it hurts the most—their band account. Ulmann keeps his caper in the family throughout Arthur Harari’s Dark Diamond (a.k.a. Dark Inclusion, trailer here), which is now available on DVD from First Run Features.

By day, Ulmann does odd construction work, but by night he pulls off carefully targeted art thefts for Rachid, his fence and pseudo-god-father. Victor Ulmann, his real father, recently passed away, but they were so estranged, it will be days before the news reaches the son. However, after his father’s death, Ulmann starts to understand how badly the old man was done by the Antwerp Ulmanns. After a marathon diamond-cutting session led to the accidental amputation of his hand, the distraught Victor was kicked to the curb and disinherited by his father and brother Joseph.

When Joseph’s drug-addled son Gabi offers Ulmann some guilt-alleviating remodeling work, it gives him an excuse to start casing their business. However, when Ulmann talks his way into an apprenticeship with the Ulmann’s preferred cutter Rick De Vries, the son discovers he has his father’s talent. He also learns when Uncle Joseph’s big stones will be sitting innocently in the cutter’s vault.

Dark Diamond has a rather chilly Benelux sensibility, but it rather works for a diamond caper movie. Harari and his co-screenwriters Agnès Feuvre and Vincent Poymiro seem to have an insider’s understanding of the diamond business, including the shift of power from Belgium to India. The caper business is appealingly complex, but that is nothing compared to the evolving rat’s nest of divided Ulmann family loyalties.

Although Niels Schneider is known for his sensitive mop-top roles, he gives an effectively cold and clammy Joel Kinnaman-esque performance as resentful Pier. However, it is the old guys, Hafed Benotman as the deceptively placid Rachid, Hans-Peter Cloos as the unapologetic Uncle Joseph, and Jos Verbist as De Vries (perhaps the only fundamentally decent character), who give the film grit and tragic dimension.

Like Pier Ulmann, Dark Diamond commits a few errors in judgment (in some cases, their missteps are one and the same). However, its cerebral vibe and patient dot-connecting make for a rather pleasant change of pace. Recommended for Euro-caper-heist fans, Dark Diamond is now available on DVD from First Run Features.