Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Like Serving Hard Time -- Reflections on "Stone" (2010)

If you're a card carrying member of the AARP, she'll show you her tits.

Working in the prison system must be tough. There you are, surrounded by thieves, murderers, abusers, and an assortment of other criminals. Everyone’s got an angle, it seems, in an attempt to work the system. I imagine it must be hard to trust anyone in that environment.

Stone attempts to imagine this world and show the consequences of trust. Unfortunately, the movie plays as a rich man’s attempt at soap opera. A decent concept and strong performances are unable to save a plot that seems lifted from superior thrillers and an execution that crosses over into the land of Boring.

Basics: Jack Mabry (Robert DeNiro) is a prison social worker who reviews case files and interviews prisoners before determining if they are acceptable candidates for parole. One of his last cases before retirement is that of Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Edward Norton), a misanthropic inmate in the pen for arson and 2nd degree murder. Stone is manipulative and conniving, and uses his psychotic wife, Lucetta (Milla Jovovich), to seduce Jack into authorizing parole. Jack’s seduction leads to bad choices, rough consequences, and reminders of wasp stings (I still don’t get the use of this image throughout the film).

Milla Jovovich Needs To Keep Her Shirt On: Prior to Stone, I was only aware of Jovovich as “that chick from Resident Evil and those cosmetic commercials.” She’s obviously very beautiful, but when she plays crazy, she has a tendency to take her clothes off. I don’t know about other people, but crazy naked people are not a turn-on, and in this film it makes her seduction of Jack seem awfully unrealistic.

Spring-Winter Romances Ended With Harold and Maude: Speaking of unrealistic, there’s not a moment in this movie that I buy the blossoming romance between Jack and Lucetta. First off, she’s psycho, and Jack doesn’t seem like the kind of guy easily seduced by psycho. Secondly, it looks icky watching an aging, sagging DeNiro grind with the young, nubile Jovovich (try getting that image out of your head any time soon). In addition, it seems so stupid that a soon-to-be-retired prison worker would be so quick to hop into bed with the wife of one of his cases, even if she can kick infected zombie ass.

DeNiro and Michael Jordan: I think Robert DeNiro has career Alzheimer’s Disease. Seriously. Since the early 2000s, his choices in projects leaves a lot to be desired. 15 Minutes, The Score, Godsend, Meet the Fockers, Righteous Kill. About the only good film he’s made has been Machete, but that seems more like a moment of clarity in an Alzheimer’s patient. Stone does not re-cement his reputation as one of the finest actors working. He has become a washed-up has-been. In a way, though, it only makes me appreciate his early work so much more. Early DeNiro (Taxi Driver, Godfather II, Raging Bull) was like early Michael Jordan – fiery, electric, with an “I’ve never seen anything like this before” vibe. Middle DeNiro (Midnight Run, Goodfellas, Cape Fear) was like Jordan after he returned from his baseball sabbatical – he knew how to pick his spots and still showed us how awesome he was. But late DeNiro (see above) is like the Jordan that played for the Washington Wizards – old, slow, and irrelevant, but living on legacy alone. Sad, but true.

I do not recommend Stone, unless you’re looking for A) something to irritate your bowels, or B) you really want to see MIlla Jovovich’s munchkin boobs. Otherwise, it’s pretty much like two hours spent serving self-imposed hard time.