Parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro) has only a few weeks left before retirement and wishes to finish out the cases he's been assigned. One such case is that of Gerald "Stone" Creeson (Edward Norton), a convicted arsonist who is up for parole. Jack is initially reluctant to indulge Stone in the coarse banter he wishes to pursue and feels little sympathy for the prisoner's pleas for an early release. Seeing little hope in convincing Jack by himself, Stone arranges for his wife, Lucetta (Milla Jovovich), to seduce the officer, but motives and intentions steadily blur amidst the passions and buried secrets of the corrupted players in this deadly game of deception. Written by
The Massie Twins
Filmmaking 101 has a rule; wait, Art 101 has a rule: Know your genre. A drama can have comic relief, but that works only in the framework of the genre that's been established. Comedies can have their dramatic, emotional moments, but if they then turn into dramas, audiences are confused and disappointed. If a screenwriter and director can't even tell their story competently within the confines of the genre they first set up, their movie will fail.
Yes, Stone is well acted. So what? Do you go to the movies to see good acting class exercises? If so, check this movie out. Norton and De Niro are entertaining, early on at least, and there's sharp dialog they have to work with (how else could they do their jobs? Don't you love people who praise the acting without acknowledging the script?)
But the story the real reason most of us venture out to see a film in Stoner is a mess. The movie starts off essentially as a thriller. The plot sets up a con working a con, with his sexy wife, on a prison case officer. But after putting the movie is thriller mode the movie then tries to be a drama about the meaning of life and presence of God. The movie tries to turn its main plot with the wife into a subplot, and then pretend that fun, salacious venture wasn't really what the movie wanted to deal with. No, let's talk about the meaning of life.
Stone, then, is a disappointment. Even as a drama it fails: the story dissipates into ambiguity with regard to the final action. POVs have jumped around all throughout the movie but in not showing us the final resolution between Stone and his wife, the whole fulcrum of the movie is left blank. As for the transformation of Stone something Norton tries to act by occasionally calming his voice and widening his eyes it's unbelievable, not fully formed or demonstrated and, like the rest of the movie, a pretentious attempt to take a fun dime-store novel's story and make it profound.
Don't waste your time or money with this one. If you have to see it, wait for video. The movie is shot in TV-like close-ups for the most part and it will play just as well there.
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