"Diamond Men" is a throwback to classic cinematic storytelling techniques.

This low-key drama is a character piece that actually manages to develop its characters and is willing to unfold at its own pace.

Yet one thing the drama really can't and shouldn't be called is "old-fashioned." Its sensibilities are quite modern. (Though the film is not rated, its level of profanity and other adult content surely would earn an R.)

Still, this well-acted film is a nifty little change of pace — and is certainly a breath of fresh air after the summer's spate of effects-heavy duds. And besides, it's wonderful to see any movie make use of veteran character actor Robert Forster.

Forster stars as Eddie Miller, a widower and veteran diamond salesman in Pennsylvania who is recovering from a recent heart attack, and as a result, the company he works for is afraid to let him go back on the road. In fact, they're even thinking about letting him go, though Eddie's boss does agree to let him train his replacement in the field, Bobby Walker (Donnie Wahlberg).

Not too surprisingly, the intense Eddie and the fast-talking, flashy Bobby immediately butt heads, though the latter is put in his place after he sees Eddie work his magic with some seemingly stubborn customers.

Grateful for the lesson, Bobby, in turn, wants to do something nice for his mentor. So he takes him to the Altoona Riding Club, a local brothel run by the kind-hearted Tina (Jasmine Guy).

Where the story goes from here isn't as predictable as you'd think. But it is a little muddled, and it might lose some viewers along the way— though it does recover quite nicely in the final 10 minutes.

Producer/writer/director Daniel M. Cohen based Forster's character on his father, a veteran jewelry salesman. Perhaps that's why his screenplay is filled with so many nice realistic touches, such as having Eddie's boss sympathetic to his plight (though his hands are tied, and he's unable to help him).

What really makes the film work is the chemistry between the two charismatic leads. And long-missing actress Bess Armstrong is terrific in support as a New Age-y "masseuse."

"Diamond Men" is not rated but would probably receive an R for occasional use of strong, sex-related profanity, simulated sex and sex acts, female nudity, sex talk and use of crude sexual slang terms, and brief violence (pistol-whipping and a beating). Running time: 104 minutes.

E-MAIL: jeff@desnews.com