Flipping The Script
I’ll give director John Curran this, he doesn’t make movies with easy to cheer for protagonists. Most recently the writer for this year’s screen adaptation to the pulp psycho classic The Killer Inside Me, he returns with this prison yarn starring Edward Norton as a convicted arsonist using his wife (Milla Jovovich) to manipulate his parole officer (Robert De Niro) into securing his parole. It sounds like something we’ve all seen a variation of a thousand times before, but what we end up getting is something extraordinary.
From the opening scene, Curran flips the script and we are left not knowing what to expect from this movie. The film opens with actors playing young versions of De Niro and Frances Conroy‘s characters. Young Conroy announces that she is leaving De Niro, and what he does next makes it pretty clear that he’s not the hero of this film.
Then there is Norton’s character. First introduced to us in cornrows and covered in prison tats, Gerald “Stone” Creeson doesn’t seem overly concerned about whether or not De Niro’s Jack approves his parole hearing so much as he enjoys talking and toying with this old man. When he brings up the subject of young women, he knows he has hit a nerve with Jack, and that is when he brings Lucetta (Jovovich) into the mix.
Jovovich’s role is the one that I have had the hardest time coming to grips with before the film was even released. When I first saw the poster and noticed that the studio was using her name at the top along with De Niro and Norton, it dawned on me that to a studio exec, Milla Jovovich is just as much a box office draw as Robert De Niro, which sounds crazy but is actually hard to argue with. Watching the film it also dawned on me how easy it is to overlook Jovovich as an actress. Sure, half her output is video game movies directed by her hack husband, but then she gets offered a role like this. Lucetta is insane. It’s one of the first things Stone tells Jack about her, but still Jack allows himself to get tangled up in her crazy life. You expect De Niro and Norton to blow Jovovich off the screen, but in their scenes together quite the opposite occurs. You can feel the actors’ games being lifted, trying to keep up with where she is taking them. Also, she is naked half of the time. Just saying!
Stone is a film that is destined to be overlooked during its theatrical run. If you are one of the lucky ones that actually has it playing at an indie or art house theater nearby, drop a couple of bucks on a ticket this weekend and go see it.