Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Movie with Abe: Stone

Directed by John Curran
Released October 8, 2010

Edward Norton is a fine reason to see any movie. Norton has consistently delivered excellent performances in films like “Primal Fear,” “American History X,” “25th Hour,” and this year’s little-seen “Leaves of Grass.” Even when he’s not acting at his best, he has a knack for picking challenging roles, and he’s usually still leagues ahead of the rest of the performers in his film. Unfortunately, that’s the case in his latest film, the prison movie “Stone,” which positions Norton’s Stone as a prisoner up for parole, Milla Jovovich as his doting wife on the outside, and Robert DeNiro as his retiring parole officer.

Norton invests his all in bringing Stone, an uneducated, talkative criminal, to life. He puts on an accent and an attitude, and often appears as if he’s acting in a completely different film. Part of the reason he stands out so much is due to the fact that the once-great, two-time Oscar-winning Robert De Niro hasn’t truly done emotive acting in at least a decade. Since ending his frequent collaborations with Martin Scorsese, De Niro has mostly taken on roles as grumpy old men with no patience for anyone around them. While this part is a slightly more three-dimensional than that, De Niro’s Jack is quickly established as a despicable antagonist from the first scene, when his younger self (played by Enver Gjokaj of “Dollhouse” fame) threatens to throw his baby daughter out the window if his wife leaves him.

Establishing such a bleak relationship at the start doesn’t give the film much hope, and it definitely doesn’t deliver on its decently sustainable premise. Without sympathy for the main character, any kind of positive thinking has to be directed toward Stone, who, within the confines of the prison, lives in his own little world, and, as a result, his own little movie. Much of Stone’s spiritual awakening is bizarrely shown in a comic manner, weakening its overall effect. What occurs outside the prison’s walls is far less impressive, based almost entirely around a gaping plot hole where Jack mysteriously decides that it makes sense to open up to Jovovich’s Lucetta. Jovovich, who has given terrible performances in films like “The Fifth Element” and “Zoolander,” masks her inability to act here with the fact that she’s playing someone legitimately crazy, which gives her license to do whatever she wants and have it seem fine.

“Stone” doesn’t start off strong, and an unexplained chain of events lead up to even more nonsense that doesn’t make sense and doesn’t offer any kind of fulfilling or enlightening conclusion to the story or the characters. The use of fancy cinematography at the end is too little, too late, and nothing seems clear at the end of the film. These are sloppily-written characters operating in the kind of story that’s been told in a much better way before, and even the presence of actor extraordinaire Edward Norton, not even delivering one of his best performances, can’t hope to save it.


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