Today: February 21, 2024

Stone

De Niro And Norton go head to head in a psychological thriller.

The power-house double act of
De Niro and Norton team up for this drama that is never able to match their
talents.

Gone
are the days where people would flock to the cinema to see De Niro and Norton work
their endless talents into fascinating characters. Too many Meet The Parents (2000) and The Incredible Hulk (2008) have
meant that these former heavy weights have blighted their otherwise impeccable
CVs
. Stone sees them return to serious acting and, on paper at least, the
premise should offer an opportunity to show-off just why they are considered
two of cinema’s most breathtaking actors.

Stone
(Norton) is an incarcerated arsonist due for a parole hearing but first he must
prove to Jack (De Niro) that he is a reformed man. Anxious to get out of prison
Stone will try anything to manipulate Jack into granting him his freedom. This
includes asking his wife Lucetta (Jovoich)
to do anything in her powers to convince Jack. What ensues is a game of wills
as to who will blink first.

The
biggest problem with Stone is it is essentially a theatrical venture in that
for the most part it is people sitting in rooms talking. This does not always
have to feel so stagnant though, simple look at the sublime The Social Network
(2010) to see how it can be done. But
here the film creeps along at a snails pace desperate to come across as
intelligent but instead mustering thoughts of boredom.

Early on the film sets up
various character traits, all of them are flawed, and then later systematically
contradicts them
. At one point Jack is painted as this controlling possessive only for
him to relinquish such characteristics and embark on an ill-advised affair with
Lucetta. This could work if there was some inkling that he was capable of this,
but the switch is too sudden and therefore feels misjudged.

Meanwhile
Stone discovers a form of devote Christianity, known as Zukango, which allows
you to hear God’s presence by blocking out the noise of the world around you. At this point you begin to feel like the
film is delving into some bizarre religious rhetoric in the hope of either
convincing or converting you, it does neither and as such irritates
. There are of course parallels to be
drawn with themes of forgiveness and resolution but they are played too heavy
handed and therefore become maudlin rather than worthy of running time.

De
Niro has long since given up the ghost of Taxi
Driver
(1976) and Raging Bull (1980)
and here feels like he is simply going through the motions, just as unconvinced
by Jack’s plight as we are. Norton on
the other hand spends the first half of the film doing a bizarre impression of
an extra from 8 Mile before finally losing the cornrows and shining in a far
more subtle and delicate performance
. It is a pity it took a change of
hairstyle in order to facilitate this transformation.

The
last time De Niro and Norton went toe to toe in The Score (2001) they wanted to emulate Heat (1995) and only
managed lukewarm. This time they want to
be Stone but hit something closer to soft cheese, the kind that gives you
strange dreams, and not in a good way.

Alex Moss Editor

Alex Moss’ obsession with film began the moment he witnessed the Alien burst forth from John Hurt’s stomach. It was perhaps ill-advised to witness this aged 6 but much like the beast within Hurt, he became infected by a parasite called ‘Movies’. Rarely away from his computer or a big screen, as he muses on Cinematic Deities, Alex is “more machine now than man. His mind is twisted and evil”. Email: alex.moss@filmjuice.com

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