Directed by John Curran
Stone kicks off with its screws already tightened, with a wart-and-all surrogate for the young Robert DeNiro threatening to throw his daughter out a window. Percolating music and a blur of Christian talk radio follows that lovely vignette, confirming, before we learn anything else about the character, that our star has brought another seething hothead to the screen.
For the record, Bobby D's playing a parole review overseer one month from retirement. The one last case he's sure to regret not passing to his replacement is a corn-rowed Edward Norton, wielding his ghettofied accent so saucily fans will immediately suspect it’s as fraudulent as the personas he put on in Primal Fear and The Score (where DeNiro's mellow jazzcat made a more entertaining foil for Norton's precociousness than the grumbler he plays here). Hoping to guarantee his release, Norton sics his needy nympho wife (Milla Jovovich) on the old man, rightly assuming she'll quickly gain access to his mind and pants. But before this noirish love triangle can get good, Norton's jailbird reads an obscure religious pamphlet, gaining a faraway look in his eye and confusing the pair rutting behind his back with big questions like "what does ‘forever’ really mean"?
While Stone doesn't last quite that long, it certainly takes its time arriving at the outcome, and dawdles well after the climax has passed. Padding the film are booze-fueled bible study sessions between DeNiro and his wife (Frances Conroy, even more zonked than she was on Six Feet Under) and a psychedelic sex montage the 67-year-old Best Actor winner likely thought he was past enjoying. It's possible the peripheral religious chatter provides more of a message than "Married life in the boonies won't keep Travis Bickle from being Travis Bickle," but it's hard to pick any up with director John Curran (We Don't Live Here Anymore, The Painted Veil) and the ominous score telegraphing dread throughout. A rumination on righteousness gussied up like an erotic thriller, Stone is as hard to take seriously as it is to enjoy.
Opens October 8