Dir. Davy Chou. 101 minutes.
Unassuming teenager Bora (Sobon Nuon) is lured away from his village to work on the construction of Diamond Island, a palatial condo complex for tourists and the Cambodian elite. There, Bora encounters his estranged older brother (Cheanick Nov), who introduces him to the fast-paced charms of Phnom Penh’s nightlife.
There is a peculiar magic belonging to filmmakers like Hitchcock, Tarantino and Billy Wilder that allows them to turn a scene of two people sitting around and talking into something that absorbs us irresistibly. When a movie lacks this magnetism, our eyes slide off the edge of the screen and our hands start reaching for our phones, even if there happens to be a large, loud, computer-generated spectacle on display. “Diamond Island” has neither that magic quality, nor any flashy gimmickry to fall back on.
“Diamond Island” should be fascinating, shot in the cavernous concrete-and-rebar interior of a resort-to-be and on the neon-streaked avenues of Phnom Penh, and featuring naturalistic performances by actors plucked from the streets. But loose, tensionless dialogue and flat cinematography reminiscent of a TV documentary turn “Diamond Island” into a tepid experience.