With a movie that pits Robert De Niro and Edward Norton against each other, it was safe to say that this small indie flick captured peopleâ€™s attention based solely off the cast.Â Already getting its buzz due to the names attached to it, would the script itself warrant such acting juggernauts or fall short?Â Also, will Milla Jovovichâ€™s eyes manage to distract me yet again?
With a movie that pits Robert De Niro and Edward Norton against each other, it was safe to say that this small indie flick captured people’s attention based solely off the cast. Already getting its buzz due to the names attached to it, would the script itself warrant such acting juggernauts or fall short? Also, will Milla Jovovich’s eyes manage to distract me yet again?
In Stone, Edward Norton plays Gerald “Stone” Creeson, a convicted arsonist up for parole after serving eight years for burning down his grandparents’ home. He is evaluated by Jack Mabry (De Niro), a hardened parole officer who’s on the verge of his retirement. When met at odds about his release, Stone conjures a plan with his Wife Lucetta (Jovovich) to seduce Jack in an effort to secure his parole.
When talking about Stone, one immediately has to talk about its cast. With such titans like Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, it’s no surprise that the cast transcends the script. When we first meet Stone, you’re kind of taken aback by Norton’s accent and cornrows, seeming almost downright comical. As the movie progresses, you start to believe that he really talks like that and that the cornrows were an excellent choice. He provides a stoic understated performance that for me was the highlight of this film. That’s not to say that Edward Norton doesn’t play the same character he did in 25th Hour or American History X, but it still manages to be refreshing and downright charming. Robert De Niro is also great as usual, but just like Norton his character falls into the same archetype he’s played before. As for Milla Jovovich, I’m pretty sure she was hired for those hypnotic green eyes of hers as she turns out a run of the mill succubus role throughout the movie. Although the performances are strong, it’s still a disappointment that there wasn’t much depth to the characters themselves.
Sadly, the cast is most of what Stone has got going for it. The film plays out like it’s really trying to gain acceptance from the Oscar committee, sacrificing the audience along the way. Its themes are beaten into the viewer’s head in a way that feels clunky and forced. Religious imagery and evangelical radio jargon are overused to a point that leaves you rolling your eyes. I hate to spoil it for you, but for a film that looked like it was going to be about a battle of wits between crime & authority, it’s really a film about religion.
The direction of the film drags as it takes a really long time for the story to get anywhere. Clocking in at a standard hour and 45 minutes, the film still feels like it is way too long. I can’t tell if it was the writing or the direction (or both), but by the end of the movie its themes of redemption and growth are lost on you and a bit underwhelming. The progression of the story was so painful that ¾ into it I was constantly checking my watch in disbelief. Tension is far and between as they’re sandwiched in with scenes where a character will be alone and absolutely nothing goes on.
Now, I understand why with a film director like John Curran would want to play with duality and parallels, but this was overkill. Rather than going with a pinch of salt, he threw the whole shaker in there, leaving the audience with a bad taste in its mouth. The sound design was its saving graces as it was subtle yet borderline genius. It was the only thing that kept me from thinking that Curran didn’t know what he was doing.
I wanted to like Stone. It has an amazing cast and a concept that has potential. However, it was so concerned with being an artsy film that it ended up being alienating. Rather than doing what was right for the film, director John Curran followed a formula that has gotten other movies like it award nods. I don’t think the direction was bad, just that it got derailed.
Overall Score: 6.05 – Okay. (6s are just okay. These movies usually have many flaws, didn’t try to do anything special, or were poorly executed. Some will still love 6s, but most prefer to just rent them. Watch more trailers and read more reviews before you decide.)
Every scene with Norton and De Niro was a pleasure to watch. Everything between that, however, not so much. If anything, it’s worth seeing just to assure you how great Norton and De Niro are. There’s also an opportunity to see Jovovich’s boulder nipples, if that’s what gets your rocks off (see what I did there?)
Overall Score: 6.35 — You’ll want to watch Stone for the great performances by Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, as well as the handful of sex scenes with Milla Jovovich (if you’re into that sort of thing). However, don’t expect to be blown away. Read his full review here.
Overall Score: 4.65 — If you approach Stone, then how well you can tune out the plot and focus on punch-out performances will determine just how badly you should have stayed away. As captivating as these three actors are, they can’t sell it, which is to say nobody could have. Read his full review here.