A murky Bible belt noir in which typically nobody is what they seem, even when inadvertently, Stone mixes evangelism, midlife crisis lust, and serious parole violations by, well, somebody on the parole board. Along with Edward Norton in a weirdly over the top performance in what is usually referred to in less than polite circles as a ‘wigger.’
Directed by John Curran (The Painted Veil) and steeped in what seems like mystical heartland evangelical voodoo more suited for sci-fi, the movie sets up a convoluted cat and mouse prison caper among predators and prey alike, in a continuously alternating switching up of sides and hidden agendas. Edward Norton is Stone, a Michigan prison inmate obsessed with manipulating his parole officer Jack (Robert De Niro) into recommending his release, related to a long prison term he’s been serving as an accomplice in the murder of his own grandparents and the heartless torching of their home. Decked out in dreads and spouting a borderline clownish ghetto-speak, Stone moves on to Plan B when he gets hip to Jack not being in the least impressed with his intimidating jailhouse freedom rap.
Enter Milla Jovovich as Lucetta, Stone’s flirty trailer park scantily clad slutty wench back home, in an equally caricature-driven performance, who is sent to seduce Jack into a more receptive attitude towards her arsonist spouse’s pending parole hearing. Jack, who is up for parole himself so to speak and about to retire shortly, is not without his own dark secrets, including a damaged relationship with an alcoholic wife Madylyn (Frances Conroy) who sits at home all day drinking and reading scriptures. That is, ever since her control freak hubby dangled their infant out the window and threatened to drop him, if Madylyn ever made good on her determination to leave him.
At some point Jack seems to turn into Travis Bickle once again minus his taxi, and Lucetta makes toy birds’ nests between make out sessions with the grumpy lawman. While Stone, a con in evidently more ways than one, finds Jesus, loses his dreads, and becomes a self-described tuning fork for God. And the audience may be left to wonder if all these prominent stars should be indicted and convicted as well, for making such bad choices in movies.
2 [out of 4] stars