Robert De Niro plays a prison psychiatrist who is analyzing “Stone,” a prisoner played by Edward Norton, in order to assess Norton’s fitness to be paroled.  De Niro is the typical, prison employee who is extremely cynical about the ability of prisoners to change their ways; and Norton is the typical, angry convict looking to game the system so he can be set free.

Norton devises a two-pronged attack against De Niro so that De Niro will give him a favorable assessment.  1) Norton will pretend to find religion and enlightenment; and 2) Norton will order his trashy wife (played by Milla Jovovich) to seduce De Niro.

Regarding number 1: Norton chooses some weird religion that states that if you listen closely enough, you can start to tune out the everyday world noise and focus on certain vibrations that are God’s words — something like that.  Of all the religions to choose to bull@$#t  somebody, he chooses that?  But…it works in this movie.  More on this later.

As for number 2: at first I thought it would never work, since De Niro is so by the book and uptight; and he’s about to retire so I didn’t think he would take the bait and risk losing his job and possibly going to prison.  Then again, he’s in a loveless marriage, he’s an old dude, his wife doesn’t do it for him, and Jovovich is a looker with a strong sex drive.

Before you think that there’s going to be some big, love triangle drama going on…nope.  “Stone” is mostly about Norton’s transformation from a corn row-braided wigger to a full believer in the weird religion that he chose to b.s. De Niro with.  And that transformation is the best part of this less than mediocre movie.  Norton goes balls out at the start of the movie, very hyper and combative.  Halfway through, the corn rows are gone, he’s more insightful and accepting of what his place is in the world.  The last half of Norton’s performance, although much more subtle than the first half, is the most powerful and memorable of the two.  Also, I found his character more likeable after the change, so that helped me to keep watching “Stone” all the way to the end.

So, should you  watch “Stone,” all the way to the end?   This is a tough one.  If you’re looking for a slow moving movie about redemption, you may want to give this a chance.  If it’s not for you, you can always press “stop” on your remote and watch another movie.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Stone” is the first scene when we see Jovovich naked.  Yes, it’s very man-piggish of me to say it, but hey, I’m being honest.  I’ve never seen Jovovich naked before in a movie, so it was good to finally see her in her birthday suit.

Despite me stating that “Stone” rates below mediocre, I did enjoy this movie because there were certain parts that I really liked — yes, besides the naked scenes.  I think it was Norton’s ability to find some peace in the world and in himself.  As Norton stated to De Niro, Norton is still very much who he is.  He’ll get angry at times and be confrontational.  But he listens more, tuning in to certain sounds that he believes comes from God, sounds that help him cope with life and give him some guidance.  Real or imagined, I envy his newfound sense of peace.  I’ve searched for it all my life, and I still haven’t made peace with myself nor the world.

— M