Starring: Yuri Nikulin, Andrei Mironov, Anatoly Papanov
Director: Leonid Gaidai
Running Time: 100 mins
The Diamond Arm (Бриллиантовая рука) is a Soviet film about an ordinary man who accidentally becomes involved in international jewellery smuggling while on a holiday cruise.
A light-hearted and gleefully chaotic comedy throughout, there’s a lot to like about The Diamond Arm. It may not be constant, laugh-out-loud hilarity, but with pleasant and easy-going humour that’s more than enough to keep you chuckling, The Diamond Arm proves a thoroughly enjoyable watch.
Let’s start off with the film’s nice and simple story. A basic, chaotic comedy of errors that sees an innocent, ordinary man caught up in an international criminal conspiracy, The Diamond Arm is an easy watch throughout, with its pleasantly ridiculous brand of slapstick and silly humour taking centre stage from any sort of narrative intrigue.
And that’s a good thing, because although it’s never the most riveting watch, a simple, easy-going story means that there’s ample opportunity to sit back and enjoy the comedy, without the fear of anything overly serious getting in the way.
Of course, there is a degree of characterisation, but again, with fairly simple characters that see an innocent man go up against a dashing but manipulative criminal trying to steal back his booty, the majority of the story is simply geared towards getting our characters into the most ridiculous situations possible, with laughs-per-minute the main goal of the movie.
As a result, the film is at its best when running at as fast a pace as possible. The first act is by far the strongest and most chaotic period of all, with a mad series of events that eventually leads to our main man being pursued by a number of criminals when he returns from his holiday abroad, but the movie keeps up a decent enough pace right the way through, with that chaotic energy playing a big role in its entertainment factor.
I will say that, as fun as the movie proves from beginning to end, its second and third act don’t quite live up to the pure hilarity of the opening period, with the pace dropping a bit in favour of longer, more drawn-out comedic set pieces. It’s all still pretty funny, but the delivery isn’t quite as electrifying as the early stages of the film, and there aren’t enough side-jokes in the build-up to punchlines to really justify the shift to more complex comedic set pieces.
Finally, though, we can’t forget about the lead performances from Yuri Nikulin and Andrei Mironov, who are both brilliant fun throughout. Nikulin does brilliantly as an entirely innocent man bewildered by the situation he’s somehow ended up in, with his droopy, average Joe facial expressions going further to make his character as pitiful as possible, adding to the fun of each ridiculous twist.
But it’s actually Mironov, who plays the dashing criminal chasing after Nikulin and the treasure he has accidentally stolen. Playing up a comically evil and dastardly persona, Mironov proves a hugely likable villain, and plays off Nikulin’s more energy-sapped character with hyperbolic fake friendliness and criminal scheming, with each moment he appears on screen really standing out as the best of the film.
Overall, I really rather liked The Diamond Arm. A fun, easy-going and pleasantly silly comedy of errors throughout, the film is full of laughs and chuckles, as well as good energy and two great central performances. It’s not always consistently hilarious, and arguably drops off in its latter stages, but for the most part, it’s a thoroughly enjoyable watch that’s worth your time, which is why I’m giving it a 7.5.