De niro’s spiritual crisis heralds a return to form…

Stone review

“You imagine working with Bob as a fantasy when you’re younger,” Edward Norton says on the disc’s interviews (most of them repeated during the 11-minute Making Of). “This was the kind of opportunity I dreamed about getting to work on with him.”

Stone is a good deal stronger than 2001 team-up The Score. Unlike Frank Oz’s timid heist movie, here we get actors justifying reputations, not just coasting on them, aided in no small part by John Curran’s sensitive direction and Angus MacLachlan’s intelligent writing – subtle and slippery while tackling hefty biblical themes like sin and judgement, temptation and redemption.

Make no mistake, Stone’s loose-change US box office ($1.8m) and DVD/Blu-ray debut in the UK are attributable to its rigorous content, not a lack of quality.

De Niro is buttoned-up, holier-than-thou parole officer Jack Mabry; Norton is whip-smart, volatile convict Gerald “Stone” Creeson, up for review.

Separated by a desk, circumstances and (morally) not much else, they engage in psychological warfare over Creeson’s freedom and Mabry’s soul (“Something profound is coming down the rails,” Norton says in the extras. “You can’t quite tell what the conflagration will be...”).

But this is actually a four-hander, with Milla Jovovich revelatory as Creeson’s contradictory wife and Frances Conroy peeling off layers as Mabry’s stoical-in-stasis partner of 43 years.

Stone’s symbolism occasionally clunks and the film wilts compared to all those ’70s classics concerned with interior landscapes. Yet this is heartfelt, headstrong cinema, and recommended for it.

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