Monday, April 4, 2011

Stone (2010)

At a glance:
On one level, Stone is a well-acted film noir about crime, prison, and parole; but beneath, it veers into an obscure sub-text of spirituality, retribution and belief

Our review (with spoilers):
On the surface, Stone has a fairly accessible story about Gerald ‘Stone’ Creeson (Edward Norton), a con  who is trying to get early release by convincing his parole officer Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro) that he has learned his lesson and done his time. In order to facilitate this, Stone involves his sexy, scruple-free wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich) to seduce Jack. Jack believes in nothing and is eminently corruptible, despite first appearing to be a by-the-book type of guy. While this surface story is playing out, we get to appreciate the solid performances by Norton, De Niro, and Jovovich.

But besides this tale, which in and of itself amounts to an interesting but not outstanding film, there is some kind of obscure religious/metaphysical allegory. ‘Stone’ is a reference to the beginning of life: we begin as a stone and are reincarnated into more complex organisms. Mabry is evil, and/or a non-believer who will be punished for his sins. Stone is there, perhaps, to offer temptation and to deal out the punishment. At least, that’s my quick take on what may have been alluded to. I could be quite wrong, and that always worries me when watching a movie such as this – one that could be called ‘subtle’, ‘obscure’, or perhaps even ‘open to interpretation’.

I really have no idea if Gerald Creeson had a true Epiphany. His actions, or the way our viewing of his actions are manipulated, would lean toward him being sincere. Did he start the fire that burned down Jack’s house? What horrible secret was Jack hiding – or was the horror simply that of a life led in a vacuum of belief?

The lesson here could also be about living and listening. Jack immerses himself in sounds of spirituality – he constantly listens to religious talk-back radio; he attends church; and he reads scripture and drinks heavily with his sad wife (Frances Conroy). He also listens to prisoners all day. But he does not actually appear to hear any of what is being said.

Rating: 3 of 4

Other reviewers said:
"Set up as a familiar noir plot, the film veers off into unexpected places, keeping the audience guessing as to the main characters' motivations well after the credits roll."
- Rob Thomas [Capital Times (Madison, WI)]

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