Posts Tagged ‘Stone’


Stone1-640x480“Stone,” the new film starring powerhouse method actors Robert de Niro and Edward Norton, is the very definition of an actor’s movie. Richly drawn characters populate the film giving actors a chance to brood, use funny accents and, in the case of Milla Jovovich, deliver a career altering performance. It’s just too bad the story doesn’t give the actors the support they deserve.

De Niro plays parole case worker Jack Mabry. He’s a month away from retirement, and in an effort to cross ts’s and dot i’s he’s clearing his desk of all his outstanding paperwork. One of his final cases is Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Norton), an arsonist looking for spiritual enlightenment and a way out of prison. They engage in an elaborate verbal game but when words fail, Stone resorts to plan B, convincing his wife Lucetta (Jovovich) to seduce Mabry and use blackmail to earn his release from jail. She’s a willing participant, but soon after ethical and moral lines are crossed the deception deepens, revealing the true character of all involved.

First and foremost “Stone” is a movie to be admired for its performances. Norton, corn rows and all, impresses, playing a riff on the sketchy but emotionally layered characters he’s played before in films like “American History X” and “Primal Fear.” Mabry seems like a character De Niro could play in his sleep, a family guy with a reserve of rage hidden just under the surface, but his skilful performance takes Mabry to interesting and unexpected places. The biggest surprise, however, is Jovovich. The queen of the “Resident Evil” series taps into previously unseen reservoirs of talent, hinting that she may soon add Oscar nominee to her imdb listing.

The performances are admirable but as good as they are the story won’t inspire admiration, just frustration. It has the bones of a gripping drama but as the running time approaches the ninety minute mark character motivations become muddled and Norton’s metaphysical transformation seems more like a plot device than a believable life change.  It allows Norton to do some interesting work but feels like it belongs in a different movie. Near the end it almost feels as though director John Curran (who worked with Norton before on the period drama The Painted Veil) ran out of time and had to tie up all the story shards in the quickest, most efficient way possible. There is little resolution and a metaphor, at least that’s what I think it is, involving a fly is mystifying.

“Stone” shines when it focuses on the actors but sinks like a, well, stone story wise.

Edward Norton’s impressive criminal resumé In Focus by Richard Crouse FOR METRO CANADA Published: October 14, 2010

imagesEdward Norton has made a career of playing jailbirds on screen. His edgy intensity lights up movies like this weekend’s Stone, despite one writer calling him “the passport definition of no distinguishing marks.”

The Yale graduate’s slight, gawky frame is not exactly what you have in mind when you think criminal and yet his portrayals of people on life’s fringe’s have earned him Oscar nominations and come to define his career.

In his first big screen part Norton played the dual role of altar boy Aaron and his alter ego, the psychotic Roy in the film Primal Fear. Accused of murder, he is zealously defended by a defense attorney (Richard Gere) who is drawn to the sweet Southern boy until he realizes that Aaron is totally insane. A complete unknown when he auditioned for the role, he tricked the film’s director into thinking he shared an eastern Kentucky background with Aaron by speaking with a twang —which he picked by watching Coal Miner’s Daughter.

“The most I had to offer was anonymity,” he later said. “The potency of the revelation about who my character really was in that film was in part reliant on the fact that people had absolutely no prior knowledge of me.”

Next time behind bars he pulled a De Niro, and in American History X physically transformed to play the role of a white supremacist sent away for murder. In jail he learns the error of his ways and works to help his brother from going down the same, wrong-headed path.

“I knew this guy was going to have to be really physically fearsome,” he says, “and that’s not something anyone would peg me for. [He’s] defined by rage and this body he’s created is the physical manifestation of that.”

In this weekend’s Stone he stars as an arsonist who will do anything, including using his wife as bait, to earn parole. Despite having played convicts in the past, Norton was keen to bring an extra layer of realism to this role so he met with actual prisoners to learn how they spoke.

“Their language is fantastic. At one point, one of these guys was telling me about a fight and how he had to just let it happen and not fight. (He said,) ‘When you’re short time, you have to be a vegetarian.’ I said, ‘What?’ He said, ‘Vegetarian, you can’t have beef with nobody.’”