When's the last time we had a gritty, hardcore R-rated, widescreen action flick? Everything nowadays is either PG-13 or overly glossed up crap with masturbatory director flourishes(Swordfish). El Diablo isn't perfect, but it's a fucking diamond compared to the watered-down stuff we get these days.
It's basically about cops taking down a drug lord in Mexico. The hook is that the cops, played by Vin Diesel and Larenz Tate (Menace II Society) are young hip ex-gangbangers who can do what the old square cops cannot. But instead of taking the market-researched, nu-metal, "middle aged dad trying to connect with his son" route that xXx took, El Diablo clearly takes its inspiration from Heat, Casino and other serious crime epics!
Oh, it's got lots of modern slang and "big" entertaining characters, no doubt. But all of it comes off very naturally and subdued much like Training Day. As if the director and cast were intimately familiar with the lifestyle (ok, maybe Diesel is a slight bit awkward) instead of just learning it for the movie.
And the gun battles! Sweet. Obviously inspired by the realistic, hard-hitting shootout in Heat. You know, short burst, machine gun action, no John Woo fantasy moves. Right now, the editing doesn't achieve Heat's heights (which managed to be hard-hitting and edited very tightly while simultaneously being very clear) - the action scenes are a little hard to follow. But even then, it put a big smile on my face to see a film try to pull it off.
The R-rating allows for a lot of swearing and (cue Chris Rock voice) "Titty! Titty! Titty!" And even more booty. Ah.
Story and dialogue-wise, it's not genius. But again, I want to stress the subdued way everything is handled. It just makes things a lot easier to take, rather than hitting you over the head with Travolta-esque hamminess.
To summarize why El Diablo is cool:
1) It's a young hip film that seems inspired by Heat and Scorsese instead of other young hip films. How cool is that? A *gritty* kickass action crime movie.
2) It's R-rated and makes full use of the rating.
3) Hardcore gun battles.
4) A cool fucking cast. Larenz Tate and Timothy Olyphant own this flick. Many other familiar-looking character actors do nice work as well. Larenz Tate needs to do more films!
5) A nice visual style, both in the cinematography and the designs of some sets/costumes. Basically realistic but pushed a bit toward the more cool-looking stuff. eg, check out the half face masks on Tate & Diesel in the opening scene.
Parts I didn't like so much:
1) Vin Diesel delivers some of his dialogue quite awkwardly. Fortunately, he has the right intensity and charisma to pull the role off anyway.
2) The film seems about 30 minutes too short. It needs to expand more on the drug operations and culture. That would take this thing into epic Scorcese crime flick territory.
Anyway, can't wait to see the final version in theaters!