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STONE (director: John Curran; screenwriter: Angus MacLachan; cinematographer: Maryse Alberti; editor: Alexandre de Franceschi; cast: Robert De Niro (Jack Mabry), Edward Norton (Stone), Milla Jovovich (Lucetta), Frances Conroy (Madylyn), Peter Lewis (Warden); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Jordan Schur/David J. Mimran/Holly Wiersma; Overture Films; 2010)
Seems as weary as the Detroit parole caseworker Robert De Niro plays.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A well-crafted but downer melodrama that has little power, offers a ham-fisted take on religion through evangelistic talk radio played throughout and seems as weary as the Detroit parole caseworker Robert De Niro plays. John Curran (“Praise”/”We Don’t Live There Anymore”/”The Painted Veil”)weakly directs the thinly-written character study that’s insipidly scripted byAngus MacLachan (“Junebug” writer).

Suburban living Jack Mabry (Robert De Niro), a bad egg who no longer believes in God even though he wants to and someone who gained a modicum of respectability on his job for his dedication,is retiring from his parole officer job at a Detroit prison (filmed at the State Prison of Southern Michigan, which was once the world’s largest walled prison before it closed). The glum Jack’s last case is with a chatty, menacing ghetto talking hipster sleazebag with cornrows and multiple tattoos, Gerald “Stone” Creeson (Edward Norton), an arsonist who served over eight years and while up for parole tries to manipulate the damaged goods family man of forty-three years by conveniently setting him up with his slutty, daffy wife Lucetta (Milla Jovovich). That Jack takes the bait, shows he’s also a creep. When Stone is released, he pays Jack back by burning down his house. Not willing to start over with hubby, wifey ends the loveless marriage and leaves him a lonely broken man.

We’re supposed to be reminded that the parole officer is a hypercritical pig because he lectured the convict to ‘take responsibility for his actions,’ but never does for his two dastardly deeds we witness (the other was forcing his unhappy wife Madylyn (Frances Conroy), when he was a young man, to not leave him or he would harm their daughter).

Not much registers here besides all the angst and depression, and a storyline that seems flat. It was about as enjoyable as spending a 105 minutes in prison.

REVIEWED ON 11/24/2010 GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”