The Aisle Seat - Movie Reviews by Mike McGranaghan
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THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan



The timing of Diablo's release is a little suspect. This is a violent Western, coming on the heels of two other violent Westerns, The Hateful Eight and The Revenant, both of which are highly regarded. Presumably, the intention is to say, “If you liked those other gritty Westerns, you might want to see this one, too!” In reality, it's more comparable to saying, “If you liked that thousand-dollar bill you just got, you might also enjoy this shiny nickel.”

Set shortly after the Civil War, the film stars Scott Eastwood as Jackson, a guy whose wife is kidnapped by Mexicans. He sets out across the plains to find her. Along the way, he encounters a ruthless and mysterious psychopath named Ezra (Walton Goggins), some Native Americans, and a former war buddy, Benjamin Carver (Danny Glover). Eventually he finds the Mexicans. Not much else happens. There's something kind of startling about how little takes place in director/co-writer Lawrence Roeck's story.

Diablo feels like only part of a movie. One gets the impression that it might have been longer at one point. That's because it completely lacks a first act. (A scant 77-minute running time lends credence to this theory.) The film begins with Jackson setting off on the journey to find his wife. We're given no clue why she has been targeted or who the guilty parties are. Similarly, no information is provided about Jackson, which leads to a lack of clarity about why we're following him. He's not a fully formed character; he's Guy Whose Wife Was Taken. Eventually, a few generic details are divulged about him - including vague hints regarding a tortured personal history - but it's simply not enough. A good fifty minutes goes by before we find out anything of substance, and even then, nothing is developed to a point where it carries any weight.

As for the kidnapping...well, who cares? Jackson's wife isn't a prominent character, so it's not like the audience can get invested in her well-being. And then there's the plot twist. Right before the one hour mark, a big secret about the connection between Jackson and Ezra is revealed. This type of twist has been done before in better films. In iconic films. Here, it feels thrown in out of nowhere, with nothing to substantiate or justify it. And because all this has been so sloppily set up, the film completely falls apart when it tries to pay things off.

Scott Eastwood can be a good actor when he's got half-decent material, but this time he just does a pale imitation of his famous father. Walton Goggins, meanwhile, is ever reliable. He gets such little screen time, though, that one wonders what the point was in casting someone of his caliber.

Diablo is a master class in how not to create drama. It's shallow, tedious, underdeveloped, and filled with characters who are introduced and then dropped. It contains an abundance of plot points that exist without a plot to explain them. The film also ends on a bum note, one which resolves nothing and means even less.

Diablo is the first new film I've seen in 2016. I'll be surprised if I see one that's worse all year.

(1/2 out of four)

Diablo is rated PG-13 for sequences of violence and brief language. The running time is 1 hour and 82 minutes.

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