Stone has big questions

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      Starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, and Milla Jovovich. Rated 14A. Opens Friday, October 22, at the Cinemark Tinseltown

      What’s the rule in movies when someone is mere weeks away from retirement? That’s right: everything goes all wrong on their ass. Tense, moody thriller Stone, in which Robert De Niro plays a parole officer mere weeks away from retirement, abides by that formula, all right. But its makers, and possibly our Maker—unless you believe your only makers are Mom, Dad, and a bottle of lemon gin—go totally rogue after that.

      Watch the trailer for Stone.

      If not for the fact that things begin with a pretty disturbing event in his past, Jack (De Niro) would seem like any dulled paper pusher counting the days while in a mutually alcoholic dead zone with his scriptures-quoting wife Madylyn (Frances Conroy) at home. When prisoner Stone (Edward Norton) turns up with cornrows and tats, petitioning for parole in his raspy, jivey street talk, why, you practically rub your hands together in anticipation of the trouble to come.

      Oh, trouble comes. At first it takes the form of Lucetta (Milla Jovovich), Stone’s cherry-lipped, femme-fatale wife who tells Jack she’ll do “anything” to spring her man from the Big House. No dummy, Jack guesses Stone and Lucetta’s games, and the movie’s trailers have probably shown you too much of how that plays out. But did you guess that director John Curran (The Painted Veil) and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan (Junebug) have some holy wafers they’d like you to swallow?

      Like the Christian-radio talkers Jack listens to, these filmmakers have big questions. For instance, if Stone lit his grandparents’ house on fire after his cousin murdered them, then later accepted what he did but felt no remorse, is that good enough? Is anything sinful we get up to just all part of God’s plan? Hmm. The actors persuasively capture lives of desperate emptiness (although De Niro seems ever more opaque), but old-fashioned, noir-nasty trouble is kinda more fun than religious obsession. Right, sinners?