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IMPLAUSIBILITY TAKES THE GLINT OFF `BLOOD DIAMOND'.

Byline: Glenn Whipp Film Critic

Ed Zwick's erratic, unfocused and thoroughly unsurprising ``Blood Diamond'' plays like an ultra-violent, big-budget compendium of Hollywood cliches about both Africa and the thriller genre itself.

It's an action movie, at least until it routinely stops every 15 minutes for its characters to deliver lessons in history and evils of consumerism. It's rarely convincing, playing like a People Magazine's Most Beautiful People issue's romp through Deepest, Darkest Africa.

(Those poor, poor people ... but doesn't Jennifer look fetching?)

In short: It's a mess.

``Blood Diamond'' is set in Sierra Leone in 1999 as guerrilla rebels wage a civil war against the government and any innocent bystander who happens to be in the way. Early on, these thugs raid a village, murdering women and children indiscriminately and taking the men, including fisherman Solomon (Djimon Hounsou), hostage to work in mining camps.

Sierra Leone is rich in diamonds, but the wealth never makes it to the people in need, going instead to the arms dealers who perpetuate the country's (and the continent's) history of violence. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Danny Archer, one such arms trader, looking for a last big score so he can get out of Dodge. When Archer learns that Solomon has hidden a huge rock, he promises to reunite Solomon with his family if Solomon will show him where he buried the diamond.

If Zwick had stopped there, ``Blood Diamond'' might have been a good movie. But Zwick being Zwick, he's not going to make a simple thriller, even if that simple thriller already has the complications of being set halfway across the world.

So, there's a high-minded, incredibly sexy journalist (Jennifer Connelly) on hand to prod Archer to do the right thing, which Archer, understandably, confuses as an invitation for sex instead of consciousness-raising. There are extended discussions about very real evils of the international diamond trade. (You might want to rethink those earrings you were going to buy this Christmas.) There's also lots of beautifully shot scenery and horrific scenes of genocide (sometimes all in the same frame) with grave results for anyone save for the above-the-line cast.

In short: Unless you're DiCaprio or Hounsou, you might want to think twice about making that open-field dash when there's a dozen bad guys raining bullets on you with their automatic weapons.

Penalizing ``Blood Diamond,'' which fancies itself a serious-minded film, for implausible action-movie stunts seems cheap until you realize that you don't really buy into anything that happens in the film. So when DiCaprio's shakily accented soldier-of-fortune tries on yet another personality at the end of the movie, there's nothing left to do but throw up your hands, shuffle out of the theater and remember to make sure the Zales around the corner isn't stocking ``conflict'' diamonds. That, or think about pearls.

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672

glenn.whipp@dailynews.com

BLOOD DIAMOND - Two stars

(R: strong violence and language)

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly.

Director: Ed Zwick.

Running time: 2 hr. 18 min.

Playing: In wide release.

In a nutshell: Action-thriller lectures about the evils of the diamond industry. Will make you rethink your Christmas shopping list, but otherwise unconvincing and unfocused as storytelling.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

Djimon Hounsou is a hostage working in a gem mining camp in ``Blood Diamond.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Dec 8, 2006
Words:550
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