Fans rejoice!! Robert De Niro can still act. I know this because he’s been given his most complicated material in well over a decade.
Fans rejoice!! Edward Norton is still one of the most versatile actors we have. I know this because I never questioned his portrayal of a corn-row sporting arsonist with a colorfully street form of Detroit dialect.
Fans rejoice!! Milla Jovovich is more than a zombie killer. I know this because despite De Niro’s best work in years and Norton’s further solidification of top-tier performers Jovovich steals the camera’s attention from both with an impressively complex depiction of a conniving seductress with an innocent outer candy shell.Stone, if you can’t already tell, is very much an actor’s film. Each character is given a prominent arc with each affective behavior causing changes, or an exposing of something already there under the surface, in each other. Jack Mabry (De Niro) is a parole officer a few weeks shy of retirement when he meets Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Edward Norton), a man serving time for setting the house of his grandparents on fire after they were murdered by one of his friends. Creeson is to be one of Mabry’s final cases before heading off into the sunset and it’s up to him to determine whether he feels Creeson has been rehabilitated and can rejoin society. Creeson, not feeling particularly confident in his relationship with Mabry decides to get his wife (Jovovich) to seduce Mabry to hopefully sway his decision to get him released. This leads to a sequence of emotional turmoil, religious enlightenment and regretful indulgences that are met with uncomfortable revelations.
The film is also rather funny.
The Stone character is certainly the most entertaining of the inmates Norton has played in his career. The quick-witted, raspy street thug is the kind of character you hate to love. He rarely stops talking, even more rarely says anything polite, but never says anything you won’t in some way enjoy hearing. It’s the perfect kind of foil for De Niro’s closed-fisted sternness and their interactions with each other offer some great highlights.
However, as I claimed before, the most impressive element of the picture may be the prowess of Jovovich who absolutely shines. Granted, part of it may be because it’s from such an unexpected source, but truthfully the role of Lucetta is arguably the most dynamic in the story, so even a remotely competent performance would stand out a little. Jovovich, though, lights the stick and detonates. She does so well at transitioning from innocently suggestive and overtly sexual at the drop of a hat without seeming bipolar. To say it’s her best work is an accurate understatement. A severe one.
I’ve unfortunately neglected the work of Frances Conroy as Mabry’s tortured, weakened wife because she just isn’t given comparable screen time, but her character may be the most tragic and disheartened of the bunch going in, but the single cause for smiles coming out. Not because the film is bad, quite the contrary, it’s just really good at making you feel not particularly good. In the case of De Niro that’s exactly what we may need from him right now. He’s given us enough wanting to feel good over the past decade. It’s a little refreshing to see him revert back to what we liked about him in his iconic performances; which is his ability to make us feel uneasy in our seats.