Clint Eastwood’s oaters are the stuff of film legend. Son Scott Eastwood? His canon needs some seasoning.
The younger Eastwood stars in “Diablo,” another meditation on violence soaked in blood and grit. It’s impressively shot, checking off enough western tropes to satisfy on an elemental level. It still demands a star of consequence, and young Eastwood isn’t up to the challenge just yet.
Eastwood plays Jackson, a Civil War veteran whose wife is abducted by Mexicans during the film’s opening scene. He stocks up on bullets and heads off to find her, not caring if he might get killed in the process.
Along the way he meets Ezra (“Justified’s” Walton Goggins), a cold-blooded killer who may hold the key to his wife’s disappearance. Or Ezra might end Jackson’s mission with one hot bullet.
It’s easy to imagine how much better “Diablo” would be had Goggins and Eastwood changed places. As it is, Goggins plays, well, Goggins, the smooth talker with danger lurking around every spoken syllable.
Eastwood sure looks the part of the western hero, but there’s something calculated about his moves. Maybe it’s how he keeps running his fingers through his perfect hair. That iconic gene pool isn’t enough. Give him an Eastwood squint and you can spot potential given the right director and material.
This isn’t it.
“Diablo” sets up its twist with stark efficiency, but it’s the psychological underpinnings that go unattended. To say more would spoil a surprise many will guess before the reveal. What’s clear is how that twist deflates the final act, one brimming with gunfights and heroic last stands.
This western is very much a story for its time. The screenplay, by director Lawrence Roeck and Carlos De Los Rios, grants nobility to archetypes portrayed in the past as one-dimensional souls. That neuters an intriguing subplot involving a Native American tribe. A brief flashback referencing Jackson’s Civil War days also isn’t rich enough to make an impact.
Danny Glover proves a neat exception playing a soldier who once fought alongside Jackson. Glover isn’t on screen long, but the weariness he brings to the film gives “Diablo” a depth it often lacks.
It’s those lived-in moments, and flickers of barbarism, that sell a western. That and a leading man who looks like he was born to ride a horse. “Diablo” barely contains the first and is in search of the latter.
DID YOU KNOW: Scott Eastwood worked construction jobs and tended bar before following in his famous father’s footsteps.