Anchor Bay // 2010 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Roy Hrab (Retired) // February 3rd, 2011
Stone: "You ever think about things they say go on
Stone: Things they say go on forever -- like...what's that mean, you know? The sky, like, they say the sky goes on forever. But what is that really? That's -- I mean, you can't see nothing you can't see, so...it's like a big bowl of blue above you. You can see clouds during the day or you can see stars at night maybe, but even with a telescope you can't see forever. So how do they know?
Clearly, Ed Norton (Fight Club) and Robert De Niro (Angel Heart) decided that their collaboration on The Score was not enough and they should work on another picture together. It's unfortunate that they chose the pretentious Stone to be their follow-up.
Parole officer Jack Mabry (De Niro) is closing in on retirement, but he's still dedicated to the job. One of Mabry's last files relates to Gerald "Stone" Creeson (Norton). Stone has been incarcerated for being an accomplice in the murder of his grandparents. Having served 8 years of his sentence, he's desperate to get out and talks a big game about being rehabilitated. However, Jack isn't buying Stone's insincere ramblings. So, Stone decides he needs some help with case and asks his wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich, The Fifth Element) to talk to Jack, and perhaps go a bit further than just exchanging words. Lucetta obliges, and so does Jack, but then something strange happens: Stone discovers some obscure religion, follows its teachings, and is reborn...or is he?
Stone is a confounding film. It appears, at first glance, to be a standard psychological contest between a prisoner and his parole officer. However, it soon takes a hard turn into deeply philosophical terrain, exploring crime versus sin, physical freedom versus spiritual freedom, and faith versus non-belief. The result is a very unsatisfying genre mash-up that doesn't deliver much because of heavy-handed storytelling courtesy of director John Curran (The Painted Veil) and writer Angus MacLachlan (Junebug).
The telltale sign of the non-hidden agenda of Stone is the incessant Christian talk radio that blares anytime time Jack drives his car. Oh, there's also seeing him go through the motions at church. And then there's watching Jack and his wife (Frances Conroy, The Wicker Man) sit at home, barely talking to each other, nursing not-so-mixed drinks. Meanwhile, Stone and Lucetta, over the phone and in the visitation room, talk about how much they love each other. Get it? The prisoner is freer and more fulfilled than his parole officer. Isn't the irony delicious?!
Before long, Jack is engaging in debauchery of all sorts with Lucetta. And Stone discovers Zukangor, a Zen-like religion that puts an emphasis on listening, preaching the spiritual epiphanies are triggered by sound. Stone starts practicing Zukangor and begins to drop his tough guy posturing, becoming more contemplative. In a clear sign of spiritual awakening, he trades in his cornrows for straight hair. Get it? The free parole officer is committing the sin of adultery; the incarcerated prisoner is spreading his spiritual wings and liberating his soul (and hair). More brute force irony!
The story continues to hammer this theme home over and over again. It goes on until it reaches a very lame finale that sees one character walk off into the sunset while the other gnashes his teeth wondering why it all went so wrong. Can you guess who's doing what?
Compared to, and given, the feeble story, the acting is passable, which is not to say that it's good. De Niro initially gives a relatively convincing portrayal of a man with an increasingly decaying soul, but his decision to fall for Lucetta makes no sense, as does pretty much everything else that follows. Norton is adequate as Stone, but his epiphany dependent role is not well defined. Moreover, the bizarre accent Norton adopts for Stone is plain annoying and the cornrow hairdo is a ridiculous distraction. Jovovich is stuck with a one-dimensional character that has little to do aside from trying to look sultry.
The video and audio transfers are excellent. Both deliver the goods without any problems.
The extras include the theatrical trailer and an unremarkable "making-of" featurette.
Stone is a mess. Avoid it.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* 2.40:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2010
MPAA Rating: Rated R