Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, and Francis Conroy
Director: John Curran
Rating: Three of Ten Stars
A sociopathic arsonist (Norton) and his wife (Jovovich) set into motion a scheme to manipulate a prison parole officer (De Niro) to secure his release from prison.
Take a half-baked drama inspired by classic film noir pictures, tack on some poorly developed ideas about redemption and the transformitive power of spirituality, and conclude the story with a limp and overly vague montage in an attempt to hide the fact that no one really bothered to come up with a solid story arc or real motivations for any of the characters in the film, and you have "Stone".
I've said many times that a good actor can elevate a bad script, but they seen something to work with. Despite the fact we have three good actors in this film, there's really nothing for any of them to do a whole lot with, other than to speak their lines and hope no one notices the only thing consistent about this film is that it is unrelentingly boring. Every time it looks like it might finally be building some momentum, we're treated to another scene of De Niro driving in his car and listening to Christian talk radio, or a shot of the prison at dawn with Christian talk radio heard on the soundtrack.
There was the potential here for this film to a good old fashioned thriller with De Niro as the man facing destruction after being manipulated into making a bad call, Jovovich as a borderline psycho femme fatale, and Norton as the mastermind behind it all. It could even had possessed a nice twist, as Norton's character finds spiritual redemption but his crazy wife won't stop the plan and the now-desperate parole officer won't believe his new-found good intentions. But the filmmakers here were obviously not content with making a straight-forward potboiler, and they had to throw in a bunch of "deep" material that required far more real character development and just plain characterization than the stereotypes in this get. (Norton and Jovovich are playing to the material; their performances are good but not spectacular or anything we haven't seen them do before. De Niro seems to be giving his part all he can, which is almost a shame because he's better than this movie deserves.)
"Stone" is a film to either rent on DVD, or wait for it to show up on television. It's not worth the bother of going to the theatre, and it's certainly not worth a paid admission.