Stone, directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil), unites Robert De Niro and Edward Norton as two opposing characters whose stories eventually begin to parallel one another’s with Milla Jovovich serving to be the main source of conflict between the two. However, despite a cast of A-list actors, the movie is marred by shallow and predictable writing that holds it back from being great. (Caution: This review is spoiler-heavy.)
Stone follows two primary characters: Jack Mabry (De Niro), a hardened parole officer on the verge of retirement, and Stone (Norton), who is up for parole and is Mabry’s final case. After serving eight years of his sentence for setting his grandparents’ house on fire to cover up their murder, Stone is eligible for parole. However, believing that Mabry won’t grant his parole, he sends his wife, Lucetta (Jovovich), to persuade Mabry into letting him free. Reluctant at first, Mabry eventually gives in to her advances, resulting in a sexual affair with her. As their relationship grows, Stone’s religious awakening begins to grow and take over him. The film then culminates into two separate forms of release: Stone’s release from prison and Mabry’s release from his comfortable life.
The writing in Stone is so predictable, it’s practically shoved down your throat with how obvious the movie will end. The only time you feel suspense is in the rising action before the climax about 7/8 into the movie. The characters are shallow with little to no depth to them. Jack Mabry is the good, honorable cop who makes a wrong decision that ends in his eventual downfall. In contrast, Stone is the tough criminal who turns a new leaf and finds the redemption he searched for. Lucetta represents the temptress who puts herself in the middle of the two. How revolutionary! You can’t help but wonder if Curran simply underestimated his audience. It’s as if he wanted to play it safe and not take any chances. For instance, as Stone further embraces his newfound religion, he undoes his corn rows to visually indicate the change within himself. Very witty, Curran.
However, while both Mabry and Stone experience some amount of character development, Lucetta stays stagnant throughout the movie. In fact, she has to be the most one-dimensional character I’ve seen in awhile. She’s a dim-witted, attention-craving succubus. That’s it. There is no deeper layer to her. She just “does what she wants to do.” Unfortunately, all that consists of is having sex with Mabry in order to get Stone out of jail.
Despite the poorly-written characters, Norton and De Niro are great. In fact, the only saving graces are the performances by the two. However, I’ll be blunt: Stone is almost exactly the same character Norton has played in previous movies (i.e. The 25th Hour, American History X) in the sense that he plays a criminal looking for personal redemption for his past grievances. While this might be indicative of typecasting, it’s a role Norton is obviously comfortable with because he plays it exceptionally well. It’s classic De Niro in this film as well. There are more than a few scenes where De Niro’s explosive and energetic attitude clashes with Norton’s calm and steady demeanor and the tension between the two is wonderful. However, it’s just not enough to hold the entirety of the movie up.
On paper, Stone has the makings to be great. However, despite great performances by Edward Norton and Robert De Niro, as well as a few sex scenes from Jovovich, the paint-by-numbers characters and predictable plot keep it from attaining that greatness it strives so hard to accomplish. It’s a movie you want to desperately hold in high regard, yet you simply can’t point out what makes it stick out above the rest.
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.