“Stone” Movie Review

     John Curran’s gritty and provocative “Stone” has Robert DeNiro, Edward Norton, and Milla Jovovich all in fine form in a film that reinforces the old saying “You reap what you sew.”  The premise is of course quite simple.  DeNiro’s Jack is a parole officer who is charged with the interview process that determines parole board recommendations for convicts.  How someone could possibly endure a 30 year career doing that everyday is beyond me.  Sitting across a desk from jail house educated scumbags, most of which claim they have found god while squatting in their 6 X 6, would certainly test the limits of anyone.  It is at the point in the film where Ed Norton’s Stone walks into Jack’s office that this couldn’t be anymore the case.

     In their initial conversations, Stone graphically describes his prison life and his longing to be released.  It seems from the beginning, Stone has a plan but at first he seems content feeling Jack out and determining how far Jack will let him go.  It turns out he can go pretty far.  Jack, you see, is not a happy guy.  He’s shown early in the film as a young unhappily married man and now over 40 years years later nothing has changed.  This sets the plot in motion as Stone has a wife of nine years waiting for him on the outside.  Milla Jovovich plays Lucetta with a sharp “femme fatale” type conviction and she goes after Jack as if nothing will stop her.  Between the constant barrage of Stone’s manipulative attacks on the inside and Lucetta’s forward sexual attacks on the outside, Jack is in over his head and has some serious moral decisions in front of him.

     The film’s characters always seem to be on the offensive when it comes to faith.  Jack and his wife, Madylyn, are life long church goers but with a souring marriage, Jack seems to be going another direction in his beliefs.  Certainly, the influences of Lucetta don’t help Jack at all as she is constantly saying “There is no such thing as God.”  Stone is just looking for a way to cope with the possibility of not being paroled and continuing to endure his prison sentence.  During the film, he begins to explore ways to talk to God directly in an act of desperation.  The influence of religion is a central theme in Stone and hovers over the characters as they make these crucial decisions.

     If you remember Ed Norton’s Academy Award nominated performance in “American History X” you’ll be reminded of it here as he turns in another solid turn as a brutal manipulative criminal.  I was amazed at how well Norton could keep such a high emotional pitch throughout all of his dialogue and how well DeNiro was able to counter with his gruff old man of a parole officer.  The acting is top notch here and if it weren’t, Stone would not have succeeded as a film.  The biggest surprise here is the turn for Mila Jovovich.  She had made a career in genre films slicing and dicing zombies and taking down the Umbrella Corporation, but here armed with nothing but her acting ability, she performs as the centerpiece of the film.  She is absolutely cunning in her ability to play both sides as she seduces a weak minded Jack and gives hope to a desperate and imprisoned Stone.  Believe me, she is not what she seems.

     Overall, Stone is a solid ensemble piece, with great performances and perhaps even more importantly, an interesting story.  I know it may be asking a little much, but maybe the studio should push for a supporting nomination for Jovovich.  Whereas, DeNiro and Norton are normally always solid, Jovovich holds this film together and has brought her game to another level. GRADE: B+