Review: Stone

Robert De Niro and Edward Norton share the screen in  Stone .
Robert De Niro and Edward Norton share the screen in Stone .

(MA15+) **

Director: John Curran.

Cast: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Frances Conroy.

SEEING actors of the calibre of De Niro and Norton going head to head is always a good thing and it's the best thing in this so-so but thought-provoking drama.

Norton plays the titular Stone, a sharp-mouthed prisoner hoping for parole after a lengthy stint in jail for arson and accessory to murder, while De Niro is Jack Mabry, the parole officer standing in the way of Stone's freedom.

Keen to get whatever leverage he can, Stone brings his wife Lucetta (Jovovich) into play in the hopes she can sway Jack with her feminine wiles.

Stone is the kind of the film that gets better the more distance you get from it. Initially, it feels incredibly underwhelming and very stagey (not surprisingly, it was initially written as a play).

It has plenty of interesting themes, such as free will, religion and the role and effectiveness of the prison system, while Stone and Jack's respective upward and downward progressions make for an intriguing juxtaposition of the supposed right and wrong.

But somewhere in all of it, Stone ultimately feels more confounding rather than profound, and while it will have you thinking after its credits have rolled, it's still hard to determine just what the film is on about, partly because the characters and their motivations seem ill-defined.

Thankfully the performances are good, with Norton in fine form, even if his shared scenes with De Niro do lack a bit of spark. Jovovich is the real surprise packet, pulling out a brilliant performance and reminding you that she can do much more than just Resident Evil movies.

The film's slow pace and heavy-handed symbolism certainly don't help, but the fact that you'll probably still be thinking about it a few days later means it's at least worth a look.