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Stone

Year: 2010
Production Co: Mimran Schur Pictures
Director: John Curran
Writer: Angus MacLachlan
Cast: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Milla Jovovich, Frances Conroy

The story is a little esoteric, the plot a little nebulous and the forward motion a bit airy fairy, but you don't want to miss it simply because of the characterisations.

Enjoying more to work with than they did in The Score, De Niro and Norton are at the top of their game. The former is morally dubious prison psychologist Jack, conflicted when the system brings seemingly angry young man Gerard 'Stone' (Norton) in front of him for parole assessment.

Norton's talent is in full flight as the wigger-esque Stone, his voice high and Hispanic sounding as a thug who's spent too long inside but who we witness seeing the light for the first time. The cinematic device of stopping to literally listen to his surroundings to reach enlightenment is a little clunky and it gives Norton nothing to do but lie there looking wistful a bit too much, but it's when the pair get together the thesping sparks fly and the realism virtually breathes out of the screen.

We've already seen that good guy Jack is already a bad guy, blackmailing his wife into not leaving him as a younger man by threatening to throw their infant daughter out a window. The biggest tragedy of the film is that Jack's wife is still there decades later, dutifully getting his drinks and standing by him after years of emotional abuse have worn her down to a husk.

Jack's made even less likeable after Stone's hot wife Lucetta (Jovovich, proving as she did in The Fourth Kind that she really can act) works her way into Jack's good graces, ostensibly trying to get him to go easy on Stone but ending up taking him to bed.

It was apparently all part of the plan to blackmail Jack into releasing her husband, but instead he's still inside wrestling with his awakening. It's one that gives him deeper insight into Jack's dark soul and as they meet to talk about Stone's case, it unsettles the older man uncomfortably out of his cloistered existence.

With three far less accomplished performers it would have been a bland, plot-lite redemptive prison drama.

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