I really enjoyed The Score. Most people generally thought it was a bit crap, but seeing Brando, De Niro and Norton share the screen was a bit of a treat for a geek like me. Plus, I always give heist movies a pass anyway. Will the reunion of Bob and Ed receive as favourable a response?
Some plays should stay plays.
Jack Mabry is a correctional officer on the brink of retirement. Jack’s job is to determine if a con is fit to be considered for early parole. Gerald Creeson, known as Stone, is a convict serving 15 years for arson, and Jack’s last customer. Unknown to Jack, Stone has recruited his wife Lucetta to seduce Jack as part of a plan to secure a favourable report for her husband. That’s what happens, but that doesn’t even come close to what the film is about.
Stone was originally written as a play by Angus MacLachlan (Junebug) which was apparently performed only once before he adapted it for the screen. The film still feels incredibly stagey though. Other than Frances Conroy’s small but insightful role as Jack’s wife, Stone is basically a three-hander between Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich as Jack, Stone and Lucetta (respectively), paired up in various combinations. They talk, they swear, they argue, they fuck, but it’s the subtext that really matters. Or is supposed to, at least.
A lot of the conversations come back to faith, and what it means to feel guilt for one’s actions. As Jack is getting older he seems to have lost his faith but still goes to church every week with his more devout wife, out of habit more than anything else. Stone, determined to get out of prison, starts to go down the “I found Jesus” route, only to discover something genuine within himself. Lucetta on the other hand is more of a force of nature, embodying the earthly desires of both men instead of the more metaphysical goals.
As for the performances themselves, Norton is hampered by an accent that makes only one word in three intelligible. He is not helped by the fact that the characters he plays tend to have a reputation for duplicity (see Primal Fear, Fight Club, The Score, The Incredible Hulk, Leaves of Grass… Need I go on?) which means that no matter what he says, you’re always waiting for the reveal. De Niro has got plenty of column inches in the last decade or so accusing him of coasting on his reputation. There are moments during Stone when the old magic threatens to appear, but they are few and far between. Both leading men are outshined by their female compatriots however. Milla Jovovich excels as Lucetta. She is sexy, sweet, innocent, carefree, manipulative and devious, often all in the same scene. This should be enough to silence the Resident Evil haters, though I doubt it will. Frances Conroy is quietly devastating as Madylyn Mabry, a woman haunted by Jack’s actions after she threatened to leave him when they were a young couple.
MacLachlan and director John Curran, who previously worked with Norton on The Painted Veil, play around with various motifs – such as a buzzing insect and the frequently raised subject of religion – but Stone’s biggest failing is that none of these seem to really amount to anything substantial. You can tell the script is trying to reach profundity, but it just can’t quite make it. Personally, I think this would have been better left on the stage.