Set against the background of South Africa's emerald coast and diamond mines, Diamond Hunters traces the torrid fortunes of a family unable to forgive and forget. Johnny, a successful ...
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Terry David Mulligan
Set against the background of South Africa's emerald coast and diamond mines, Diamond Hunters traces the torrid fortunes of a family unable to forgive and forget. Johnny, a successful diamond hunter, gets sucked back into a family that had been his own, before the patriarch, Jacob Van der Byl, abandoned him 20 years ago. Painful memories of an unjust father and a long lost love come back to reality as Johnny is pitted against his own half-brother Benedict in a fight over two women, a diamond empire and ultimately, his very survival. Played out over two episodes, Diamond Hunters describes Johnny's thwarted attempts to win the approval of Jacob, and the under-hand schemes by which the inimical Benedict plans to defeat him. Tracey, Benedict's sister and Johnny's true love, further complicates the fraternal rivalry, as all attempt to overcome the demons that survive from their troubled childhood. Written by
THE DIAMOND HUNTERS is a 2001 miniseries based on the '70s novel of the same name by popular adventure writer Wilbur Smith. This version of the tale was shot in South Africa as an international collaboration. These days, the only commercially available version of it seems to be the shortened film version, missing some 70 minutes, which I caught playing on television.
I've actually had the pleasure of reading the source material for this one - Smith is one of my favourite authors so I was intrigued to see what the creators would make of his story. The answer is that they've ruined it, turning it into a cheesy soap instead of the hard-edged thriller that I read and loved.
The storyline is dragged out endlessly even in this shortened film version of the miniseries. It seems to take forever to get anywhere and to cover material that only took up a couple of chapters in the novel. Roy Schieder is an odd choice for a pivotal role which screams miscasting, while Alyssa Milano gets a ton of screen time in a role which was small and quite extraneous in the book. As the feuding brothers, Sean Patrick Flanery and Michael Easton aren't very good either, both coming across as quite wooden.
THE DIAMOND HUNTERS jettisons Smith's rich dialogue of the novel in favour of cheesy, soap opera style dialogue scenes. It only starts to pick up in the second half, but even this lacks the sense of danger and excitement that was so prevalent in the novel. I think that even I could do a more authentic - and enjoyable - adaptation given the resources...
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