STONE - Blu-ray review

Stone is shallow melodrama...

William D. Lee's picture

The first line of dialogue uttered in the film "Stone" is, "You keep my soul in a dungeon." If you thought the movie couldn't get any cheesier, you thought wrong.

Robert DeNiro stars as Jack Mabry, a parole officer on the verge of retirement. He's been married to his wife Madylyn (Frances Conroy) for over forty years. The Mabrys attend church and read bible passages together. But, it all seems like an empty act. In the opening prologue, it is a young Madylyn who speaks that line as she intends on leaving Jack. His response is a shocking and frightening threat that keeps Madylyn locked by his side. The years have clearly taken their toll on a woman who is practically zombiefied.

Jack newest case is Gerald "Stone" Creeson (Edward Norton) who has served eight years for a botched robbery that led to the deaths of his grandparents. Stone is what some would call a 'wigger.' He has cornrows and speaks in a faux language of the streets. Desperate to get out of prison, Stone sends his smoking hot wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) to seduce Jack. What happens next isn't a steamy potboiler, but a turgid character study in hypocrisy and spirituality.

Jack merely pays lip service to God. He goes through the motions and constantly listens to Christian talk radio while driving to and from work. But, for all his superficial self-righteousness, God has yet to touch his heart. Stone is merely interested in telling Jack what he wants to hear. He chats with Jack about Zukangor, a New Age religion he discovered from a pamphlet in the prison library. However, Stone has an honest-to-goodness spiritual awakening while witnessing, of all things, a brutal stabbing. For Jack, it is unthinkable that this crude, low-life con gets a direct line to God while he struggles every day. Lucetta never deals with these sorts of existential quandaries, but she too maintains a façade. By day, she works as a schoolteacher, at night; she's a raging nymphomaniac though still dutiful to her incarcerated husband.

Throughout the film, director John Curran hammers home the themes as bluntly as possible. The talk radio commentators act as a Greek chorus reiterating what we've seen already. The dialogue lacks any semblance of subtlety and the plot just sputters along until it reaches a less than satisfying conclusion. It's a shame since the screenplay was written by Angus Maclachlan who penned the far more engaging "Junebug," which introduced the world to the wonder that is Amy Adams.

"Stone" does feature a solid turn from DeNiro. It's a low key performance from a man who has been spinning his wheels with self-parodying roles in "Meet the Fockers" and "Machete." Norton is good as well playing a character similar to the one from his big screen debut in "Primal Fear." Some critics argue that Norton's performance (which he based on actual prisoners he met in Detroit) is too labored, but I believe that is the point. Stone is mimicking the type of persona he needs to survive in prison. Jovovich is also surprisingly good as the femme fatale (not just because she gets naked) and tries to put on a performance that is a bit better than the movie will allow.

A little more subtle is the score composed by Curran and Jon Brion, who based their work off tracks given to them by Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead. The score is built around sharp tones inspired by tuning forks and the buzzing of insects.

The video is presented in 1080p with an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The transfer is sharp and flawless with colors running towards gray and beige tones.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1. The sound is clean with a tiny bit of bass to it. Dialogue comes in clearly.

Presented in HD, The Making of Stone (6:17) is your standard behind-the-scenes fluff piece as the director and his cast share their thoughts about the film, their characters, and working with each other.

The Blu-Ray also includes the film's theatrical trailer as well as trailers for other Anchor Bay releases such as "Let Me In" and "Jack Goes Boating."

The cast is talented, but the characters just aren't compelling. "Stone" is shallow melodrama and when it's over, you'll wonder what the point of it all was.


Film Value