The film is a prison drama centered around a parole officer nearing retirement who gets locked into a psychological duel with a convicted arsonist and the man's alluring wife-both of whom will do what it takes to convince the officer to help make early release possible.
The film is all about control, manipulation, psychological games, and the motifs of religious belief, guilt, and temptation. Much of it is quite well done, but the rest is a little iffy, and could have been handled better, particularly how the narrative is executed.
I do like the performances though, because those are definitely the highlight. Robert De Niro and Edward Norton reteam for the first time since The Score, and they are very impressive to watch, mostly because they are both acting somewhat against type. The really impressive person here though, is Milla Jovovich. She gives a very compelling and convincing performance without ever getting to over the top. It's a real treat to see her in action.
Give this one a chance. It's flawed, but decent and compelling enough to warrant a viewing.
The direction of ... is spot on, using the full palate of sight and especially sound to convey an underlining sense of mysticism. We are introduced to DiNiro as a parole officer, working at a state prison where one of his final cases before retirement is to rule on Norton, who has put in 10 years for being a party to an arson murder. Norton is all angles, both inside and out, a compelling performance full of street jive, yet still a soul searching for that elusive "something". In his interviews with DiNiro he flips from anger to an earnest attempt to connect with another human being, while DiNiro, appearing world weary, at first doesn't want anything more than to disperse his judgment. But as their conversations move into the realm of religion and the soul, DiNiro begins to actually listen. Whether or not this is a overt manipulation by Norton is for you to decide, and I'm not going to ruin things by ruminating on the repercussions of taking that step back and questioning all you are and all you've done in life.
I mentioned how sound plays an important part. There is a mystical bent to it, but the film does a wonderful job of overlaying Jesus radio while DiNiro is driving to and from the prison, and even more inspiring is the way in which near silence is juxtaposed with the constant clamor of the prison yard and cafeteria. Norton has gotten a hold of some offbeat religious pamphlet that says that the way to enlightenment is by being able to shut out all extemporaneous noise so you can hear the distant buzz of god's voice. Try doing that amidst the babble of the prison yard. The film runs back on itself in so many nice ways - from the opening scene where a fly is buzzing against a window screen, to the last shot where DiNiro, haven been taken on a journey he was unprepared to take, exits his office for the last time and hears a fly.
There is another wonderful scene where an inmate gets shanked and Norton witnesses the man's death. He looks into the inmate's eyes and watches the life leave - the film then shows Norton's eyes, full of dread, but also curiosity and life - to be followed by a close up of DiNiro ruling his roost at home - eyes dead.
There are two women in the film, Frances Conroy as DiNiro's long suffering and repressed wife - conveying her torment while saying very little - and Milla Javovich as the force of nature who is married to Norton. Both give fabulous and finely nuanced performances, as do the male leads.
I compare this to the French film I recently viewed, Inspector Bellamy - both character studies, but a million miles apart in depth.
"Some people tell lies. Some people live them."
Thank God this movie had two of my favorite actors of all-time in it because without them I may have never watched this movie. And that would have been a real shame. From the reviews here, I thought I was getting myself into a terrible movie. However, I wad just getting myself into an overlooked and misunderstood film. This movie is about the way we view living a good life, religion, morals and about anything else that you would consider "deep."
Now, everyone seems to be saying the exact same thing, "Norton and De Niro were good, but they weren't good enough to hold up a movie with no point." What's the point of this movie? Are you fucking kidding me? What was the point of Inception(loved Inception and in no way am I making fun of the movie at all, I'm just making a point)? To fuck with our minds and to entertain us. Other then that, Inception had no point. Now, with movies like Inception, I'm fine with that. Now, the point of Stone.
Stone wasn't made to merely entertain(although I was entertained, but I seem to be in the minority on that too). It looks at the way we view people's lives. We look at someone who is highly respected like De Niro's character and we instantly think that's a good person. We look at what are defined as the bad people like Norton's character and we instantly think that's a bad person. Stone has something to say about that. People aren't always what they appear. In the end, people change. People succumb to temptations. People break laws. Who are we to say who is good and bad? Maybe only "God" or whatever is looking over everything, knows who is actually good or bad. Now, I'm not saying I believe everything this movie is saying, but I can't say I don't believe anything it's saying. It's an interesting movie, that most people will never give a chance because of what other people are saying about it. It may not be the most coherent or entertaining movie around, but people like fucking David Lynch's movies. The guy who just throughs bizarre scene after bizarre scene together. We call it deep, but how the he'll do we know? He could just be fucking with everyone, "I'm just going to throw a lesbian scene in here, a scene that means absolutely nothing in here and people will call it a masterpiece." But my opinion of David Lynch movies are probably better suited for another review.
I know no one is reading this because they see I gave the film 4 stars. It's got a 20% like rating and this guy gave it 4 stars? He must be high or something. But anyway if you are still reading this review, Thank You. All I'm saying is give the movie a chance. Don't let people who may not have looked deep enough into the movie effect your views on it without watching. You may hate it, you may love it. I loved it and I will defend this movie forever.
That being said, there is some interesting material here that doesn't quite commit to the film's hour and forty-five minute length. However, if you like these actors, there are some fine scenes here that I wish had been executed in better fashion. So basically, you've got to pull what's good out of somewhat of a mess and see what you can make of it.
DeNiro plays Jack Mabry, a parole officer in a state prison who is handed the case of Gerald "Stone" Creeson (Edward Norton), a prisoner who has served 8years for arson and the death of his grandparents. With the decision now left with Mabry as to whether he is for suitable release, Creeson convinces his wife (Milla Jovovich), on the outside, to seduce and manipulate the parole officer and hopefully aide his freedom.
It's a pleasure to watch two of the finest actors of their generation put in great performances. However, the material they have at their disposal, sadly, isn't up to standard. It starts very promising, shapes up to a fine menage a trois thriller midway, then suddenly goes flat and never really recovers. It tries, but once it decends into spirituality it loses itself. The two leads make the most of it and it's excellent to see them sparring again after "The Score" - their first collaboration in 2001- which, for that matter, was also disappointing.
It has it's moments but ultimately it's a wasted opportunity, with two masterful actors who are the only ones keeping this from sinking like a 'stone'.
Parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro) has only a few weeks left before retirement and wishes to finish out the cases he's been assigned. One such case is that of Gerald "Stone" Creeson (Edward Norton), a convicted arsonist who is up for parole. Jack is initially reluctant to indulge Stone in the coarse banter he wishes to pursue and feels little sympathy for the prisoner's pleads for an early release. Seeing little hope in convincing Jack himself, Stone arranges for his wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) to seduce the officer, but motives and intentions steadily blur amidst the passions and buried secrets of the corrupted players in this deadly game of deception.
What is "Stone" about? It's about manipulation? Is it about deceiving? Is it about blackmailing? Is it about a guy who wants to get out from prison or it's about the bad things done in order to do good things? Obviously, John Curran, did not find out the best way possible to deliver the right answer nor he managed to balance the movie properly. We completely forget about the purpose because the movie drags too much around some characters that don't have a good chemistry nor a powerful or intelligent story to be connected with each other. The storytelling gets pretty messy at points, a lot of awkward moments and useless pieces of dialogue but most of all the "path" or pattern could be seen by the beginning. This movie lacks in consistency, balance and character development. It becomes dull and nothing really keeps you interested, sometimes you wish you could have seen it home so you could have the possibility of skipping a few minutes here and there.
The casting was not that great even if all main actors are known for their career or potential. De Niro, specifically was not meant for this role or this movie perhaps. His role was not that boring but not interesting and his character portrayal was to me a simple routine for him. No soul into it, no hard work just... acting routine. Milla Jovovich on the other hand was a perfect choice because she really fits the role of a gorgeous, easy and weird woman. She delivers that strange sexual behavior very good so choosing her for this role was a good option. Edward Norton, who we all know mainly from Fight Club and American History X, impersonated the desperate but meticulous convict pretty well. He added nothing outrageous to his character but he didn't had the courage or inspiration to make it appear more convincing.
Technically, another disappointment. The cinematography was not that good, the lens were too grey on moments and I really felt I was gonna fall asleep especially because of the editing. So many useless shots, so many silence moments, so many points where I was like sitting in my chair, looking in my left and my right, looking back to the screen and tried to remember what movie is that I'm watching right now. I felt really disappointed.
Overall, this movie lacks in about everything that is needed for a good movie to be made. It's not a great time at cinema
and I honestly don't recommend it unless you're a fan of dull movies. I guess for a rental it could be good but otherwise I cannot support this movie in any way. I am still counting the days till a good De Niro movie...
Art Direction: 5/10.
since everyone might already know the plot, and the ending could be easily predicted: the law-man does sleep with the wife, and the criminal does get his way, now i choose to render it from a more analytical level of motivation and its potential metaphor. as i said, stone is a movie about theological quest of religious awe. the seemingly christian law-binding man doesn't have faith and his obedience to the norm of life and his strict sense of formal integrity have more to do with personal rage, the rage from his discontentment with a proper and dignified but humdrum life of a puritan. what he exerts to suppress but emit in passive-aggressive way toward his wife. what distinguishes de-niro's screen personas in all those mighty classics he's involved for decades, in movies like taxi driver, raging bull and cape fear, would be the volcanic power in him with simmering outrage, don't you think the best moments in de-niro's career as a bona-fide actor happen in those extremely angry, antisocial or sociopathical roles? now he ages and expresses his dynamic rage in a more subdued and subtly trespassive way, i.e., the sociopath who wears the clean robe of a christian. stone really feels like the only movie de-niro cares enough to bother to give a decent performance in all those years since that silly "meet the fockers"!
edward norton starts off his career nicely as a great schemer in his impressive debuntante performance within "primal fear." this time, he evolves into a crass criminal who allows his grand-parents to get slaughtered by his fellow con-man in a robbery and even apathetically starts a fire to destory the corposes just because he feels like to torch them into ashes and when the bodies are enveloped and consumed by flames, he senses an awe from god. the twist of the movie would be: it begins with an intrigue of mental guerilla, then it takes a turn to tell you that's not the point. the twist would lie in the transformation of norton's character, who decides to pull off an experiment and avail himself into a process of spiritual enlightenment so he could live thru the suffocation of his jail term. then his enlightenment happens when he witnesses his fellow-jailmates get killed brutally as if death itself has an rinsing inspiration on people. in other words, norton gains his religious awe through vices then he apprehends things thru a fatalist light and they happen mysteriously for an unknown reason. (okay, i'm not trying to preach but just render the movie)....i suppose, the scriptor of stone does have a profound ambition to turn a pot-boiled movie project into some piece with revolutionary cartharsis of modernist literature. the point would be: would audience appreciate that twist and its attempted solemnity? i do. but how about you?
in a brief, the metaphor of the title "stone," which is ed norton character's nickname in the movie, but it has another occult meaning behind it because humans are transfromed from stone, according to some occult origin, and the only way to seek the spiritual emancipation you wish is to transform into the primitive form of your being: stone. and it's intentionally anti-christianity, because the whole film seems to comment and conclude that the quest of spirituality through christian formality is a failure, and it's better to have your life ruined and burned into ashes, then your re-incarnation would start to take shape.
(ps) btw, i don't mention a lot about milla jovovich because her character seems like a catalyst, a presence despite her actings in it are also good. and i must say, it's kinda refreshingly pleasant to see milla jovovich demonstrate some feminine sex appeal after all those years of that resident-evil action-heroine campaign (so mannish), which really makes me forget she's still a sultry, sexy woman with an other-worldly beauty (her eyes, especially!) even she's kinda twiggy and not full-chested. but still, hot!
since most people tend to overlook the writer in the movies, i must say, it's the writer who makes the picture! stone owes its brillaince the writer, his name is: Angus MacLachlan. (who hasn't written other impressive pieces but this one, hope he would have good works in the following years to come.)
A meandering drama that makes sure to preach its themes pretty loud and clear, but also features very good performances from its stars. It deals with characters suffering from their own flaws and also looks to add some twists on atonement and what makes someone a sinner. Then you have the element of a sexually charged thriller to bring in the kids. Basically you have a lot of ins and outs for this OK film.
Edward Norton stars as Gerald "Stone" Creeson; a man who has served 8 years in prison for Arson and is coming up for a parole hearing. To increase his chances for an early release, he tries to manipulate correctional officer Jack Mabrey (Robert De Niro) by playing psychological games and having his wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) seduce Mabrey. Jack is a complicated character as well, weeks away from retirement, living with his own wife (Frances Conroy), who has had a troubling relationship with him over the years, as is evidenced by a shocking opening sequence. While Jack is a man living by the word of the law, his anger that boils under the surface may be undone by Lucetta, who has a way of letting herself be a perfect excuse for men to uncoil. Of course, all Stone wants is to be free, or at least in control of those who can grant him that freedom.
Lucetta: I do love my husband, and all I'm asking, is a chance for you to see him in a different light. Can I persuade you?
The four main characters in this film are all well acted. They all bring something effective and different to each of their roles. The highlights are easily De Niro and Norton. De Niro does some of the best work he's put to screen in years. His character, Jack, is a man who has a lot of problems that have continued to boil within him, as he has seemingly spent years hiding his aggression. Norton's Stone is a peculiar case of a younger man who is obviously very smart, despite having done things to end up in prison. The way Norton has given this character a specific look, speech pattern, and other little elements continues to reassure me that no matter how good the film is, he is an actor who carefully chooses the roles he wants to play. Jovovich has the most standard role as basically the skanky wife, but even as little developed as this character is, she gets more of a chance to excel than she normally does in films. And then you have Conroy who pretty much defines restrained, as she plays the long suffering wife, with a heavy religious background.
With all this being said about the actors, the film still has some main problems that hinder it. It's very slow paced. This is not normally a problem for me particularly, but it was certainly very apparent that the deliberate way this film was made did not exactly help me care more about what was going on. I enjoy a good film interested in getting into the minds of the lead characters, but this was certainly quite leisurely at getting to its points. I also had problems with the way this film handled its themes. In addition to the way the film tries to subtly build up its themes, it also bashes the audience on the head by having a faith-based radio station constantly remind us with exactly what is being communicated. Along with having one religious aspect being hammered home, the film also sets up and continues to strike upon another religious aspect that seems to have some kind of Scientology-like structure. Basically the film tries to be a little too deep when getting into the nitty-gritty of what these characters are putting their faith in, and by the time the film ends, I think the message may feel a bit muddled to some.
There are some additional elements I did enjoy. Director John Curran handles a few scenes with good use of scoring and juxtaposition with his imagery. While not a thriller, he also manages to build some tension during key sequences. It is also a very good looking film. Set in the Detroit area, while not a film about having much scope, it is well shot throughout and stays true to the characters in the way some shots are set up.
So as it stands, this film manages to hold up because of the caliber of the acting involved in this story. It has solid elements, but they have to be taken with a slow pace and some overwrought religious messages. Much like the temptation Jovovich provides for Jack in the film, I was victim to wanting to see what these actors could do here, but at a price.
Stone: Don't listen to her.