Sometimes when you see a film that has some familiar names in it and watch it come and go quickly in theaters, you have to wonder what exactly happened to the film for it to be ignored (or even scorned) as it was. And Stone has an Oscar winner and Oscar nominee as half of a decent cast, and the film was in theaters for a proverbial cup of coffee before disappearing, so what exactly happened (if anything) to cause all of this?
Written by Angus MacLachlan (Junebug) and directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil), Stone is the nickname of Gerald Creeson (Edward Norton, Pride and Glory), who is in prison for arson and has served eight years and is looking towards parole. His parole officer is Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro, Righteous Kill), days away from retirement and spending his golden years with his wife Madylyn (Frances Conroy, Six Feet Under). Unbeknownst to Jack, Stone has decided to get his wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich, Resident Evil: Afterlife) involved in finding Jack and perhaps using herself as a means to influence Jack's decision on Stone's parole.
There is more to it than that, though there are some fascinating twists and turns that I shouldn't give away here. Jack and Madylyn are religious people, though Jack seems a little further away from God than Madylyn is, as is illustrated in the first scene in the film. And to watch Jack as he evolves (or more to the point devolves) through the course of the film is interesting. There is something that Stone's character alludes to in the film, using a metaphor that a tuning fork allows those that hear it to interpret it however they wish. And it's intriguing, but I'd perhaps elude more to Stone being a blank canvas for both Jack and Lucetta, and that no matter how much they want to splatter paint on him, he is the character who possesses the most clarity of thought. Whether this has to do with a gruesome stabbing he witnessed in his cell or not I don't know, but his intentions appear to be pure, and he trusts whomever tries to help him, and gives them leeway to do what they wish with his future.
At first, the concept of seeing Norton in jail looking to try and get out makes one immediately leap to his debut performance in Primal Fear, but he's able to convey the feelings of Stone rather effectively. As a kid who probably grew up in the Michigan suburbs he's been a little beat and went into jail acting hard, but he's become mellower as the years have gone on. Lucetta knew him before he went in but probably wouldn't as much when he got out. Despite this, Jovovich's performance is solid, though considering some of the praise it's been given I don't see it to be honest.
It's De Niro's performance that is the most disappointing. For a man who's worried about the dilemma he faces in his job (without realizing the contempt waiting for him at home), he's one-dimensional. We see him be restless. We see him be conflicted. Yet we don't see his belief structure start to get compromised. It just...does, without a lot of illustration of the emotional journey. He's the one who is lifting most of the weight in the story and doesn't even ask for a spotter to do so. It's sad too, because the film could have been much better than it turned out to be.
Ultimately past the performances of Jovovich and Norton, that's the epitaph that's written for Stone. Performers who are much more capable of delivering what we eventually experience here, and the final product represents some of that wasted potential. It's unfair to call it derivative of similar films that have starred either De Niro or Norton, but it's justified to call it a letdown.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 2.40:1 high-definition widescreen using the AVC codec, Stone is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the background shots are nice, possess a solid amount of image detail and even look a little multidimensional. Then on some tighter shots, that image detail lacks. Some scenes can be chalked up to artistic intent, with artificial light washing it out, but others it tends to not appear. Blacks are a little inconsistent at times during the feature as well, yet the overall picture quality remains solid without being overly distracting.
The Dolby TrueHD (listed as TruHD on the back of the case) 5.1 surround soundtrack represents itself pretty well. Dialogue wavers a little but is strong through most of the production, directional effects and speaker panning are present and effective, and there's even some low-end subwoofer activity in some of the scenes where music is present. It's a faithful reproduction over a modest soundstage, and it's quite acceptable listening material.
Eh, you've got a making of look at the film (6:16) which examines the story and characters with the cast and crew all EPK-style, and a trailer for the film.
Stone had the misfortune of being labeled as a film that it wasn't, but when you try to pin the film down, you tend to realize that it's less about what may be happening next and more about those to whom the events happen. The performances could have been much better (though technically it's not a washout), and the extras are barren. Worth a rental if you like any of the stars, but I wouldn't go crazy buying it.