You can see the logic here in Scott Eastwood’s mind. Or his agent’s.
“Dad broke through in Westerns. Why don’t I do a Western?”
Thus, “Diablo,” a violent and grimly obvious frontier thriller that Clint Eastwood might have made during his Spaghetti Days.
But Eastwood the Elder would have famously dirtied up, worn stubble, not a beard. He’d have chosen his hat with care, and crossed out much of his dialogue and told the story with his character’s actions, and his squint.
And truth be told, Clint already had years of TV work behind him before Sergio Leone came calling. Scott hasn’t got the screen presence of a leading man, not yet anyway. And Lawrence Roeck, safe to say, is no Sergio.
“Diablo” is that classic Western trope, the abduction odyssey. Eastwood plays Jackson, a rancher whose beloved Alexsandra (Camilla Belle) is taken by Mexicans, who shoot up his house, torch his stable and yell “You will never keep her” at the gringo.
That sends Jackson on a quest — to find his woman and avenge himself on those who took her. Are they marauders, her family? Considering the tale’s title, are they her coven?
Jackson meets a Chinese settler (Tzi Ma), an Indian boy who fires arrows at him.
“That wasn’t very nice!” If that’s not a line Clint would have X’ed out of this script, I don’t know Clint.
Walton Goggins (“The Hateful Eight”) has the best lines and the most presence, playing a murderous highwayman who kills, seemingly for pleasure.
“Sometimes I can’t help myself.”
Adam Beach plays an Indian who nurses the wounded Jackson, Danny Glover an old Army friend.
So Eastwood was gifted with a good supporting cast and at least the solid bones of a classic Western. The striking wintry Alberta settings are a bonus.
But it doesn’t work, partly because we figure it out too quickly, partly because Eastwood just isn’t anybody to hang a film on. He’s OK in the saddle, not commanding. He’s a bit uncomfortable with a gun, a real handicap.
And he’s overmatched, in every scene in which he’s paired with another player. They seem to steal his thunder without even trying. The camera-savvy charisma, the economy of gesture that the great Western heroes manage, aren’t written into the character or played by the actor cast as him.
In Westerns, his daddy could tell Scott, “The diablo’s in the details” — striking a match, pulling a pistol, swinging a rifle into the frame, the way you sit a horse. Eastwood’s director doesn’t help him with the little things.
And in an archetypal tale like this, the details matter more than the big themes.
MPAA Rating: R, violence
Cast: Scott Eastwood, Camilla Belle, Danny Glover, Joaquim de Almeida , Walton Goggins, Adam Beach
Credits: Directed by Lawrence Roeck, script by Carlos De Los Rios and Lawrence Roeck. A Momentum/Orion release.
Running time: 1:28