Heart of Stone

Heart Of Stone
Heart Of Stone
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With the release of Jaws and Star Wars back in the 1970s, producer Roger Corman lamented that Hollywood had learned his secret. Corman long time pusher of drive-in schlock, had made a killing by making genre pictures on a shoestring budget as they came to be known. However, this word did not mean something bad at this point in time. So Corman and others such as him took advantage of this thirst for films…and sometimes an aging actor who could use a few extra bucks.

Jump forward to 2023 when $300 million budgets are being given to Hollywood for the kind of low exploitative films Rogar Corman used to make or like Netflix’s Heart of Stone (reported $130million). The movie advertisements have it that it is from the same people who made Mission: Impossible film series hit out. It should also be noted that just like those Mission Impossible movies, there’s quite a bit of it including Heart of Stone that owes its existence somewhat to exploiters like Corman who prove big studios wrong by showing them how profitable crap really is.

Heart of Stone feels very much like B level versions of Mission: Impossible, James Bond or Jason Bourne movies.The story follows a group of MI6 agents including old hands Parker (Jamie Dornan), Theresa (Jing Lusi), Max (Paul Ready), and new hacker Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot).During an attempted kidnapping at an Italian Alps ski party that went awry, she jumps into action as part Charter – an underground international gangster-fighting “fixers” organization.

So here goes nothing: Secret-ER agent by Gal Gadot. Like some kind super-spy superhero.

Having failed mission in Alps,Rachel tells her Charter boss Nomad(Sophie Okonedo) and tech aid Jack(Matthias Schweighöfer)another person must have hacked into their operation with his/her good hacking skills. These Keya (Alia Bhatt), a child prodigy of computers, who was recruited by terrorists when she was a little girl. It is disclosed by the Charter agents that Keya wants to control The Heart, which is the world’s only computer capable of plugging into every network in existence. To aid them on these missions the Charter uses The Heart as a probability calculator. It could at once…control the world.

From there, Rachel races around trying to stop Keya and save mankind in one action set piece after another.The whole film of Heart of Stone is entirely ridiculous, but that’s why it works so well here. Rachel Stone requires an actress who can do stunts as well as act dramatically and with her being something like a superhero, Gal Gadot fits perfectly for this role. This part allows her to exhibit more dramatic range than one would see from her performances in Wonder Woman films even though she also does some acrobatics here which take her from a mere actor into a higher performer level. In this regard,Gal Gadot has established herself as an “action hero” alongside male counterparts such as Charlize Theron or Angelina Jolie.The woman is just an action star!

Certainly, Heart of Stone does not quite pass as a feminist polemic, but here director Tom Harper makes some subversive choices by working with comic book veteran Greg Rucka’s script and Hidden Figures writer Allison Schroeder. Actually, apart from the movie that doesn’t point out anything, virtually every key role in this case — even amongst field agents and their bosses — is women. For example; even a heroic female pick-up truck driver in a remote desert does exist. In fact, Dornan’s character Parker plays the only important male part in it and while he has palpable sexual chemistry with Stone the film never puts its characters into romance during action.

Regarding action, this film has so much of it – starting from skiing down a mountain slope akin to James Bond up to fighting on Zeppelin similar to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. The sequences are pieced together economically by Harper who knows how to organize them well; thus Eckersley’s editing really keeps the plot moving forward at fast pace throughout the movie. Despite being 123 minutes long, Heart of Stone does not overstay its welcome.

However, for all its cheapness this film does know precisely what kind of exploitation picture it is – any momentary lapse into pretentiousness aimed at elevating it above its own level would have totally betrayed itself. Gadot along with Dornan and others pack major punches during these bits. They must have laughed so hard after each take… barring injuries that sent them to First Aid tents because they looked like they’d gone ten rounds with Mike Tyson.

The fact is that each actor seems to be having an absolute ball here though – there are more than a few beloved performers (maybe collecting checks—see definition for “exploitation movie”) making brief but very welcome appearances. Lusi’s charisma matches that of Gadot in early scenes; on the other hand Bhatt cleverly gets assigned with the most dynamic character arc. In order for any movie’s real protagonist to change, he or she has to make a choice. And while Stone conquers every obstacle in her way, it hardly changes anything about her as a person. Bhatt’s Keya, however, faces much greater moral dilemmas and has much bigger decisions that determine who she is as an individual. This is a smart storytelling strategy; one that hints Netflix is already thinking of sequels. What an amazing surprise!

For all intents and purposes, director Tom Harper does not stand out from many other generic action masters stylistically or narratively. Following the same trend among directors who started by making television series with big budgets before selling themselves off to major franchise projects controlled by producers with iron fists. Increasingly these days more filmmakers like Joe & Anthony Russo and Alan Taylor are less concerned about their creative freedom than they are by surrendering it to corporate overlords. In fact, this tendency actually started with people such J.J Abrams as well as Joss Whedon whose success on the big screen relied on being sequels’ directors after loved trilogies were set up.Harper does really have talent here but if he is like many other personal filmmakers who use their movies to say something then Heart of Stone isn’t one of them according to his work.

Instead, Harper makes a typical action film but nevertheless one which is very entertaining. Heart of Stone is the sort of movie that audiences see, enjoy and then promptly forget about five minutes after it ends. Like ancient drive-in exploitation films, they might turn to each other as they throw away their empty popcorn containers, laughing and say, “That was great.” Schlock cinema doesn’t try to be fine art; it only aims at being some inexpensive entertainment. It’s on this level that Heart of Stone does well enough, and for once, that is satisfactory.

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