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USA 2010
Directed by
John Curran
105 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Stone (2010)

As far as I know Stone did not get a theatrical release in Australia even though Curran’s previous film, The Painted Veil (2006), was well appreciated here. It is easy enough to understand, as it is a dark and foreboding film, in the thriller vein but with philosophical inclinations, a mixture that would be hard to sell to an audience looking for one or the other quality.

Recalling his role in American History X (1998), Edward Norton, who also starred in The Painted Veil, plays Gerard 'Stone' Creeson, an inmate of the prison in which Robert De Niro’s Jack Mabry is a parole assessment officer, charged with the task of vetting parole applications. Jack is good at his job but his personal life is a mess. He has virtually no relationship with his wife of 40 years, Madylyn (Frances Conroy), who has turned to drink to drown her loneliness. Stone, an uneducated but intelligent individual who is up for parole gets his sex-loving wife, Lucetta (Milla Jovovich), to turn her charms on Jack in order to sweeten his chances of parole. Needless to say, the estranged Jack is a pushover and, of course, this leads to trouble, though not of the kind you might think.

Although I found Jack’s seduction far too easy this is really only a matter of timing for, given its inevitability, the real issue is what happens to Jack once he becomes embroiled in Stone and Lucetta’s unusual worlds. It is here that the film becomes most engrossing for instead of taking the typical path of exposure, self-immolation and revenge that its thriller look sets you up for, the film takes a rather oblique turn as Stone appears to have some kind of spiritual awakening. 

The film shifts gear to deal with moral metaphysics taking up the ideas suggested in the opening sequence which shows us Jack and Madylyn in the early days of their marriage. This development will frustrate some viewers for instead of proceeding to the usual violently cathartic resolution, Curran goes in the opposite direction refusing to fall back on familiar behavioural patterns. Whilst this breaks with genre expectations it makes the film closer to real life and thus real drama and that is a strength. With excellent performances from De Niro and Norton in the leads, well supported by Conroy and Jovovich, a fine screenplay by Angus MacLachlan, effective cinematography by Maryese Alberti and Curran’s polished direction, Stone is a film well worth seeking out.

FYI: The religion practice that inspires Stone, Zukangar, is a fictionalization of Eckankar, an actual spiritual belief system developed in the US in the 1960s.





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