- Co-Written and Directed by Lawrence Roeck
- October 2, 2015 (San Diego Film Festival) / January 8, 2016 (US)
A man begins to hunt the group that kidnapped the woman he loves but not all is quite as it seems.
Diablo is a revisionist psychological Western with some good ideas that get handled mostly poorly. The focus is on the journey of a Civil War named Jackson (Scott Eastwood) to get back his love (Camille Bell). It’s bloody and violent and despite the standard beginning which could be seen as a nod to the opening of The Outlaw Josie Wales has the potential to be something special but never quite reaches that. The twist which when it occurs has only one real hint in hindsight and feels tacked on rather than an outgrowth or revelation of events.
At 90 minutes Diablo wastes little time getting right into things. That both helps and hurts. The focus of the narrative is the chase with hints of the twist only really dropping once in hindsight. And I don’t mind a twist that you see in hindsight but given that they didn’t leave many clues of some type ahead of time is what bothers me. We have one moment that was a clue but nothing much else.
Along Jackson’s journey we meet Ezra (Walton Goggins) who appears to be a man rumored to kill and kidnap travelers along Jackson’s path. He is a menacing presence throughout and is following close behind Jackson though why appears to be just to kill everybody Jackson sees. Goggins is appropriately threatening as the mysterious Ezra and gives a bit of darkness to an otherwise merely serious journey.
SPOILERS!!!!!!!!! The twist in this movie? That Jackson and Ezra are the same person. In that it becomes a bit like Fight Club but without any attempt at deeper themes. This would be okay if Fight Club hadn’t done it first and better. Fight Club at least had moments when those that had interacted with both the Narrator and Tyler Durden indicated that they were the same but we really do not get that in this film.
It has some interesting ideas but no real building to it. Diablo just hands you what little it has without building up to any of it. And it is not as if the twist is where it starts to go south. It is just a slow move that begins shortly after Ezra first shows up. Scott Eastwood, Walton Goggins, Camilla Belle and Danny Glover help smooth out the roughness of what we do get but you can only do so much with acting when it comes to a weak script. The cast makes this bearable to watchable.
The dialogue is well delivered and visually the movie is stunning. As with all good Westerns they fall in love with the scenery. It’s framed as a beautiful portrait and not just something to stretch out the story a little bit and see at the moment. We move from snow covered mountains to a bleak desert. And it all looks sumptuous.
And the ending is perhaps another saving grace of this film. At the end Jackson and the true husband of the woman face off with both aiming to kill the other and then they cut to black with the film’s title followed by two gunshots and the blood splatter cross that very title. Who killed who? Did both die? That depends on how you want this to end. It is a narrative trick that almost always makes things better even if it leaves you just with something to think about.
Diablo is not a terrible film but it’s so much less than it should’ve been. It’s got a good cast and an interesting idea but just fails to connect on the landing. I will give us a strong if you want because of the aforementioned elements.