By request, reposting this review!
Written by Angus McLachlan (“Junebug”). Directed by John Curran (“The Painted Veil”).
Rarely will you see a blacker film; film noir at its pinnacle or nadir, depending on your perspective. It is profoundly dark; disturbing, troubling and extremely problematic. From the first scene the audience is dumbfounded by an act that imprisons in concrete a family’s dynamics, emotional and personal purgatory, bound by unwavering adherence and incessant, repetitious readings from the Bible; those in defiance face the wrath of a vengeful god, who will cast sinners into the scorching arms of eternal fire. Fire, a pervasive metaphor throughout the film.
Robert De Niro as Jack Mabry plunged deep into his acting reservoirs to define the complex and emotionally starved parole officer, marking the minutes to his encroaching retirement. He is smug, rigid in his righteousness, bereft of sensitivity, his soul encased in granite; his inflexibility impenetrable, only his will shall prevail.
Edward Norton, staggeringly brilliant as the inmate Stone, must prove to Jack, that he is reformed, cleansed from the culpability and complicity in his grandparents death, prepared to emerge into society, purified, rejuvenated, (a rolling stone gathers no moss). Thus ensues scintillating, titillating dialogue, debates between equally matched adversaries, wills of iron; men with an acumen so formidable, it is as once terrifying and satisfying to watch. These scenes vibrate with a sickening, warped intelligence as we witness the gradual transformation of both men.
Milla Jovovich as Lucetta, Stone’s wife, is stupendous! The success of the film revolves around the accomplishment of her mission; she is a sorceress, siren, an “alien” Stone calls her; her charms are ineluctable, Ulysses would have screamed to be unbound from the mast just to be within her reach. An incredulous, gorgeous concoction of Scarlet O’Hara, Mata Hari, Maggie,(“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”) and Pussy Galore of “Goldfinger” fame; she is divinely sensuous, every man’s consummate fantasy, fulfilled. An amoral, unchaste temptress of colossal competence.
Frances Conroy, Madylyn Mabry, Jack’s wife, is astounding as a vacuous, hollow, shell of a woman robbed, raped in spirit in the early stages of her marriage; the Bible and alcohol infuse her naked life with minimal comfort, but beneath this beleaguered, battered veneer lurks a woman of mystery, unseen reserves of steely strength shrouded behind a vapid exterior.
“Stone” is an analysis of imprisonment and regulations that keep one incarcerated; some dictated by man, prison; others by god, religious institutions. These four characters are unique studies in obfuscation, misinterpretation, manipulation of beliefs. Leaving this torturous film, pained, saddened, realizing man’s oftentimes disillusioned, misguided, treaded path to salvation, loses direction, culminating in a cul de sac of damnation.