Blood Diamond director Ed Zwick may as well have titled his newest action-adventure The Constant Gardener II: Diamonds Are Forever, as it peddles the same distasteful, condescending attitudes toward Africa as did Fernando Meirelles’ 2005 fiasco. Another tale of Africa’s systematic exploitation by whites and eventual liberation from such tyranny thanks to a morally ambiguous white hero, this putrid piece of Oscar bait offers up dunderheaded political speechifying and noisy combat which alternate via a stop-and-pop structure: talk, interrupted by gunfire and running, followed by more talk, then more gunfire and running, and so on until every main character is either dead, a celebrated crusader, or a noble savage deserving a slow-clap standing ovation at the G8 summit. Set in civil war-wracked Sierra Leone during the 1990s, the film concerns Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), a Zimbabwe-born smuggler in league with a nefarious international diamond corporation who partners up with Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) – a fisherman separated from his family and driven into slavery by the Revolutionary United Front – after learning that Solomon has hidden away a priceless “pink” stone that could be Danny’s ticket out of the chaotic country.
Amidst cartoonish depictions of rebel Africans as bloodthirsty, demonic monsters (such as during some fireside revelry led by David Harewood’s bellowing, growling one-eyed fiend) and action sequences marked less by exhilarating vigor than sheer sonic volume, DiCaprio amazingly manages to bring a few welcome layers to his character’s contrived ethical awakening. Alas, his efforts aren’t enough to stem the tide of back-patting bullshit that Zwick tries to pass off as intelligent, socially conscious melodrama. Will scoundrel Danny double-cross Vandy – who merely wants to find the beloved son who’s been turned into a murderer and dope fiend by rebel forces – and steal the giant rock for himself? Or will he be swayed by the incessant sermons about smuggling’s wickedness given by sexy (but, unfortunately for Danny, apparently chaste) American investigative reporter Maddy (Jennifer Connelly), whose every appearance drags the film’s herky-jerky momentum to a mind-numbing standstill? Truth is, neither, since Blood Diamond doesn’t even have the courage to force upon its protagonist a true moral choice – a move indicative of its omnipresent shallowness.