De Niro, Norton sink in 'Stone'

"Stone" Pitchforks: 0.5 out of 5 Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich Rated: R

Going into the film I can honestly say that I had not heard a single positive or negative thing about it. In fact, I had not heard anything at all. Generally when movies come out with very little warning it is not a good sign. You can use this however you wish, but the new movie “Stone,” which stars Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich, which quietly opened Oct. 8, is as entertaining to watch as a rock sunbathing.

Nothing in the 105 minute debacle ties together smoothly. Everything is forced. The performances are every bit as disappointing as the story itself, and had I not been fortunate enough to see the film for free, I would have asked for my money back. To be frank, I still feel that I should be compensated.

Where most of us grew up being told that De Niro (“Casino,” “Taxi Driver”) is a great actor, the release of “Stone” seems to indicate that the best is certainly behind him. Many only know him as the father-in-law to Ben Stiller in the “Meet the Parents” films, and those hardly do him and his career justice. Like his character in “Stone,” De Niro seems to have given up.

“Stone” is not a funny, upbeat movie. You will watch the struggles of a parole officer (De Niro) who has to sit and listen to inmate after inmate claim that not only have they found religion, but that they will be better behaved this time around as well. On the verge of retirement, De Niro meets inmate Gerald “Stone” Creeson played by Norton (“The Painted Veil,” “Fight Club”).

From that moment on, the plot becomes predicable, dry and uninteresting. Any hope for a decent film is lost as these two talented actors fight their way through an awful scene meant to show each of their characters intentions to the other, as well as the audience.

Norton, who seems to relish playing roles that highlight the duel personalities of conflicted characters, is at it again, though he seems a little desperate. Like someone chasing the dragon. His role in “Primal Fear” easily made him a household name and certainly showcased his talents, but then came “American History X,” “Fight Club” and that other “Hulk” movie, just to name a few.

In “Stone,” Norton expects the audience to believe that seeing him in cornrows is not that out of place. That based on his previous roles, we should see this as another evolutionary step in his acting prowess, and be thankful.  Couple that with the strange, scratchy and raspy whisper of a voice that he chooses to use, for a moment one wonders if even Norton is taking this seriously.

In the film, Norton conspires with his wife, played by Jovovich (“The Fifth Element,” “Resident Evil”), to help persuade De Niro into granting her husband early parole. A beautiful woman indeed, her acting yet again disappoints and distracts. If the intent is to play these child-like adults with obvious maturity problems and possible mental problems, then mission accomplished. But it leaves little to the imagination of the audience as to what kind of character she will play next, making the need or desire to see her perform non-existent, as we have seen it time and time again.

On the surface, “Stone” has potential to be a decent short film at best. The most telling and compelling parts of the film come when no dialogue is being exchanged between any of the characters, and for a short film, that can be very effective.

In short, “Stone” fails to evoke any real compassion from its intended audience — whoever that might be exactly. Even with the vague and ultimately wasted religious undertones, “Stone” manages to sink the respected careers of at least two respected actors, hopefully for a small amount and hopefully for only a short period of time.

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