Heart of Stone (2023)
Heart of Stone (2023)

Genre: Action and Spy Running Time: 2 hrs. 2 min.

Release Date: August 11th, 2023 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Tom Harper Actors: Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt, Paul Ready, Jing Lusi, Matthias Schweighöfer, Sophie Okonedo

 


 

A

t an exclusive ski resort in Italy, expert hacker Rachel Stone (Gal Gadot) attempts to get into a hi-tech security system, remotely, while stationed in a vehicle parked safely away from the cadre of international terrorists inside. But when the connection goes down, her elite team, including Parker (Jamie Dornan), Bailey (Paul Ready), and Yang (Jing Lusi), step in, orchestrating a plot that will require Stone to get much more involved. Their mission: snag the secretive Mulvaney (Enzo Cilenti), Europe’s most-wanted arms dealer. “Not bad for your first time out of the van.”

The villains here are shadowy criminals from shadowy organizations, while the heroes are equally shadowy operatives working for a shadowy non-governmental agency (“No relationships. No friends”). Perhaps it’s best that these types of ultra-modern spy flicks don’t utilize too many real bureaus; it might ruin the fantasy-levels of daredevilry unfolding and the nonsensical technological capabilities established (the worst of which are three-dimensional AI computer layouts that show exactly what must be done to achieve various outrageous feats, as if the lead character is simply playing a video game). Intel is far too easy to acquire by all parties, and each group has only one hacker – rather than a team – that can essentially breach any system within minutes. It’s very much taking a cue from the “Mission: Impossible” franchise. “Alright, genius. Now what?”

Unfortunately, the stunts here aren’t nearly as convincing as in that aforementioned series. Special effects and tricky camerawork are disappointingly overused to inadequately suggest a heightened degree of adventure. Instead, it just makes the action more unconvincing and less titillating. When a high-octane thriller relies on visual fakery to exhibit its excitement, audiences will surely be able to tell; at the very least, a percentage of them will recognize the cheat (Gadot rarely looks as if performing genuine stunts). “That is a Saturday morning cartoon.”

Although there are moments for brief levity and character development, which feel unnatural and heavy-handed when they involve light romance, action is the dominating factor. Shootouts, fistfights, chases, ambushes, and all sorts of explosive collisions occur, annihilating innumerable amounts of property. And Stone throws around plenty of glib one-liners in her efforts to emulate James Bond or other popular screen spooks. But while the supporting protagonists possess a glimmer of chemistry, the villains are bland and generic – even if a couple of unexpected twists arise in allegiances and motives. The scriptwriters just can’t seem to craft a worthy opponent for a practically superhuman secret agent, let alone innovative action sequences for them to wrestle through.

And along with the sidekicks and enemies, Gadot is similarly detrimental, as she can’t seem to play anything but her usual form – a tough, smart, iron-willed warrior who perpetually resembles the Wonder Woman persona that made her famous. And that role is largely unsympathetic; not only is she responsible for a good deal of casualties, but she also fails in a number of endeavors, seemingly choosing the wrong options for every plan. Her success is always by chance, even if aided by skill. And it’s forever insincere, since it’s embellished with over-the-top, supernatural physical exploits, which can only be undertaken by Stone, further advocating her implausible preeminence. By the end, the conquer-the-world machinations, the unoriginal action choreography, the blandly-written characters (including an extremely annoying, phonily naive minion [Alia Bhatt]), and the unstoppable formidability of the superspy make it so hard to care about any of it. “It’s a trap!”

– Mike Massie

  • 2/10