By Ken Tucker
Updated June 12, 1992 at 04:00 AM EDT

Brian Dennehy, seen playing killer John Wayne Gacy in the recent TV movie To Catch a Killer, relaxes considerably here as a police detective hired by a jewelry store to guard a 915-carat diamond. As Lieut. Merritt Outlaw (yes, everybody makes cute jokes about the name), Dennehy acts like a shrewd slob — Columbo on junk food — always munching potato chips or cake or cookies while hunting for possible jewel thieves.

Chief among these is Chariots of Fire‘s Ben Cross, playing a convicted cat burglar who claims to have gone straight — he has also been hired to protect the diamond, but Dennehy doesn’t believe Cross’ claims of honesty. Kate Nelligan (The Prince of Tides) turns up in a thankless role as a rare-book dealer attracted to Cross.

The glaring problem with The Diamond Fleece is that its plot (by Michael Norell) depends on our not realizing that one of the crucial characters in the story, a diamond cutter named Mr. Breuer, is actually someone else in the cast, heavily made-up.I won’t give away his identity but will say that I recognized him the instant he first appeared, 20 minutes into the movie. And I’ll bet you will too. D

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