Stone - Blu-ray Review

'there isn't really anything to root for in a film which meanders through musings on faith, on altruism and on the dangers of cause and effect'

Stone writer, Angus MacLachlan, originally conceived the film as a stage play in 2000 before rewriting the script as a screenplay and shopping around for some funding. The film, which is more or less a traditional three-hander, still bears all of the hallmarks of an adapted play; hallmarks which, invariably, make for uncomfortable bedfellows with the trappings of a big screen production.

For a start, there's no narration which, although not unusual for a film per se, is unusual for a film which spends a great deal of time examining how the characters internalise their various problems. Robert De Niro is the centre of the spinning wheel, whilst about him spin prisoner Stone (Edward Norton) and his neurotic wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich), both plotting De Niro's involvement in Stone's eventual release. At home, De Niro's wife (Frances Conroy) battles with an alcohol-induced myopia, a large disconnect from reality and a failing relationship with her husband. The intense focus on character, again a holdover from the play script, is stinging in its forthrightness and the braveness of MacLachlan's script is that no-one here is particularly likeable: there isn't really anything to root for in a film which meanders through musings on faith, on altruism and on the dangers of cause and effect.

With four characters and a handful of locations (the prison, Lucetta's home, De Niro's home) Stone's one-hundred and five minute runtime gets testing on occasion, mainly because at least two of the four characters don't develop enough from beginning to end. Lucetta, who appears as damaged as Madylyn (Conroy) although in markedly different ways, is lascivious and unafraid to use her sexuality from the first reel to the last, although she never quite seems clear on who she's using it for and how much fun she's getting out of it. Madylyn's broken spirit is broken in the opening moments and never even gets close to mending. The women don't get a huge look in here: they're shown as either pawns of the men's games or as having already succumbed to the effects of playing the game for too long. Maybe that's part of the point but with the character's traits apparently set in the material of the title, the focus is forced on to the more fluid developments of Stone and Jack (De Niro).

The battle between these two is involving but marred by some technical difficulties. Director John Curran noticeably struggles with several of the indoor scenes, most prevalently in the prison. The initial press photos looked like a botched photoshop job. They're not. The lighting really is that bad and De Niro's neck seems to consistently separate from his body because of it. Ignore that though and there are some tense scenes covering Stone's past and present 'awakening'. They're an involving portrait of a broken man in search of freedom. The guess is that that theme was intended to apply to all four characters and, in a way, it does. Stone though - and Jack to an extent - is the only one given the legroom to run with the concept and because of it the film feels more staid then it should have been. A decent attempt though and of particular interest to theatre-going cinephiles.

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'Lucetta, is played incredibly well by Milla Jovovic, who finally gets a chance to get away from zombie-killing times, and actually flaunt her acting skills again. She takes what could have been a standard psycho bitch, femme fatale role and makes it something deeper' - Dan The Man's Movie Reviews, 5/10


  1. Norton was great as always, but in general I was disappointed by it. Somehow I was missing a bit of excitement from it.

  2. It does lack a little bit of tension. When all three characters are together near the end that's fairly tense but you're right, it could have done with much more - in the Stone/Jack conversations for example.