The title notwithstanding, ABC mined “Diamonds” out of the bargain bin, using this international production to provide a dollop of original Memorial Day weekend fare. Alas, as British political thrillers go, the two-part movie proves wan and jumbled, throwing in big names like Judy Davis and Derek Jacobi just long enough to provide a shiny veneer, which can’t hide that the underlying story is mostly a zirconium. The project proves busy enough but not particularly engaging, while delivering a heavyhanded message about the multifaceted tendrils of the diamond trade.
In that last respect, this globetrotting exercise shares a theme with the feature “Blood Diamond,” which delved, with somewhat more dramatic success, into the collateral damage inflicted by the pursuit of diamonds. Here, the story flits from South Africa to London to Russia to a U.S. senator in California.
Said politician, Joan Cameron (Judy Davis), is awakened to the diamond economy’s evils after her do-gooding daughter dies in Africa, a victim of the quest for the gems. She launches an investigation/personal crusade that parallels a handful of other storylines, including one involving the Denmont Corp., a diamond-mining enterprise where the imperious father (Jacobi) is being pushed out by his ruthless son, Lucas (“Rome’s” James Purefoy).
Additional threads deal with a young geologist (Joanne Kelly) seeking diamonds in the Arctic, Lucas’ relationship with a model (Louise Rose) recruited to serve as the face of his company, and an African boy (Mbongeni Nhlapo) whose life is torn apart by the corruption and brutality surrounding the diamond trade.
Because of the multipronged manner in which the story is constructed, the more-recognizable cast members disappear for long stretches, which isn’t much of a loss. Indeed, the best plot strand focuses on the African youths, but even their ongoing ordeal feels overly familiar. Nor do writer David Vainola and director Andy Wilson (with “additional direction” by John McKay) join the various threads at a pace that would provide “Diamonds” the narrative momentum required by such fare, a genre at which the U.K. normally excels (see “State of Play” or “The Last Enemy”).
The normally reliable Davis can only do so much with her thinly drawn role, and as an aside, the fact that her character got elected as a Republican from San Francisco seems like somebody’s idea of a joke. “Let’s keep this blue state red!” she proclaims near the outset.
“Diamonds” certainly has plenty of facets, but in the final analysis it’s a low-grade bauble — one that doesn’t require a magnifying glass to discern its flaws.