Heart of Stone premieres on Netflix on August 11
Someone sees Cal Gadot as a worthy franchise going forward because Heart of Stone isn’t it. Netflix’s latest original action thriller stars Gadot in the world-weary role of Rachel Stone, a beautiful and super-talented operative for Charter, an international underground peacekeeping organization that spies on spies to maintain some disturbing mission statement about world balance. With the help of The Hart — referred to as “the world’s most powerful AI” — he’s assigned to travel the world, blowing up a lot of stuff and “stopping the bad guys,” whoever they are. The stone contains James Bond’s Ennui and Carmen Sandiego’s passport, but neutralized by a script filled with cardboard characters.
Heart of Stone opens with a lot of promise in an action-packed, super-sized prologue that introduces us to Stone on his first field trip with an established MI6 infiltration team that includes Jamie Dornan’s Parker. They are assigned to an exclusive, mountaintop Italian ski resort, where a sinister arms dealer is about to make a very dangerous deal. They think Stone should be hidden as a “green” tech hub. He’s actually a charter operative tagging along to make sure weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands.
The film’s most visually inventive sequences, shot at sunset over the snow-covered Italian mountains, require Stone to descend in the dark. At the very least, the introduction is visually arresting and establishes what the heart looks like and can do, which compiles the data. Everything And Everyone So the results can be accurately predicted.
In Stone’s case, The Heart acts as a connected, virtual work buddy that tells her where to go and what to do, while Jack (Matthias Schweifer), the machine’s operator, crunches the numbers in a basement headquarters far away. His stock snark is when he makes rapid hand gestures and swoopy-swoops over digital images; A poor man’s Lydia Darr runs an expensive VR. A quantum computer is so powerful that everyone who knows about it likes to whisper ominously: “If you have a heart, the world is yours.” What’s completely disconcerting, however, is that halfway through, all of The Heart’s beautiful bells and whistles are covered up and torn down. One Unique thing Heart of Stone has going for it. If they run out of VFX money, it’s a completely confusing choice.
Heart of Stone Gallery
However, a young hacker named Kaya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt), who has a personal vendetta against The Heart, is determined to control it with her own set of counter-intellectuals and thugs. Stone is all work and no drama — perhaps some might say she’s exploited by Charter — and they share a sad-girl vibe of mutual understanding throughout the film. Director Tom Harper’s smart call is to lean on Gadot’s innate ability to create empathy between characters, which adds a lot of spark to Rachel and Kaya’s scenes. But any real exploration of who they are as human beings is driven by the film’s frantic pace, rather than their ideological leanings.
Greg Rucka and Alison Schroeder’s script leaves no room for any major moments of background or nuance for any of the actors. It’s Heart of Stone’s Achilles’ heel: Stone and company are reduced to a collection of spy characters, constantly using cringe-worthy dialogue or, worse, cannon fodder to elicit some kind of unknown emotional moment for the protagonist. But maybe that’s for the best, otherwise viewers would have more time to question the logic of how the people on screen could survive an hours-long desert trek without water. Or how A lot Bullets cannot hit stone even in open areas. At least when The Heart is in action, there’s a legitimate excuse for Stone’s overwhelming good fortune. When it’s offline, the whole picture turns into an improbable fantasy.
Heart of Stone looks slick, but is almost entirely made up of empty calorie set pieces, much taken from other contemporary action movies like The Gray Man, Extraction or Red Notice. It ticks so many familiar boxes that, by the end, you can expect every mustache-twirling revelation, “surprise” death or eye-rolling countdown clock. It’s hard to get excited for future Stone adventures when there’s no reason to care about the remaining characters at the end of this one.