Review: ‘Heart Of Stone’

Gal Gadot Is On Target But Netflix's Big Budget Spy Flick Could Use More Heart

Beautiful spies battling deadly, globe-threatening AI is all the rage right now. While Tom Cruise is still out there taking death-defying risks in Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning, Gal Gadot is engaged in a smaller-scale mission with similar franchise goals in Netflix’s Heart of Stone. It’s probably not a coincidence that production company Skydance is behind both action flicks. The formula is tried and true, and the Wonder Woman star packs a punch even if the film itself struggles to set itself apart.

There’s a clever double blind going on in the initial stages of Heart of Stone. Gadot’s Rachel Stone is a low-level MI6 tech whose job is definitely not to be a field agent. But when a mission in the snowy Italian Alps to catch an arms dealer goes south, Stone is forced into action, leaving the van and into danger, where she proves…ummm, well, more than capable. This is confusing as Hell to her colleagues, including the handsome field leader Parker (Jamie Dornan). In truth, Stone is in more than one super secret organization. She’s also part of The Charter, an international band of do-gooders who use an AI algorithm known as the Heart to do pretty much anything they want. It’s so effective, it can even predict the future, which is pretty handy at stopping crimes before they happen.

The Charter feels like something designed to be a villainous cabal for James Bond to battle. Their heirarchy is based on playing card suits, with Stone as the “Nine of Hearts”, and her Q-esque weapons guy (Army of Thieves breakout Matthias Schweighofer) the “Jack of Hearts”, providing her real-time info. They are led by Nomad (Sophie Okonedo), a character who seems to have been written for Angela Bassett to growl through. No such luck, I guess.

Stone is a true hero. She can kick ass, break hearts (one of her colleagues is clearly smitten), and always tries to do the right thing, which doesn’t always fly with her Charter bosses. But when it’s revealed that one of her team is also a double agent, except on the side of evil with a plot to steal the Charter’s secret weapon, Stone must travel the world to make sure it doesn’t fall into their hands.

Heart of Stone is a lot like Netflix’s other summer blockbuster films, including Gadot’s Red Notice, in that it does way too much to justify its own existence. While practically bursting at the gills with action, most of it is pretty forgettable and detracts from the character work and world building needed to make Stone someone we want to follow for the long haul.

On the plus side, Gadot is as likeable as ever. There’s an awkard approachability about her that cuts through her obvious beauty. In one scene, Stone’s friends break out into dance at a rare moment of downtime. Gadot is the only one who looks like she has no idea what she’s doing out there on the dance floor, and while that might just be her playing a role, it feels genuinely clumsy and shy. On the other hand, Gadot also has the proven physicality to carry the fight scenes and shootouts. You come away wishing that we learned more about Stone’s past, so we could understand why she does what she does, and shy she connects with Keya (Alia Bhatt), an Indian tech wiz with similarly divided loyalties. This is especially important because Stone is a brand new character that we are just getting to know.

Heart of Stone is better than Netflix’s other big swing actioners, with the exception of the excellent Extraction franchise. In this case director Tom Harper, who helmed with great ambition The Aeronauts back in 2019, is given a lot to work with in terms of set pieces and star power, but ironically what it needs is more heart. However, it’s clear that Gadot, who is also a producer on the film, sees something in Rachel Stone and will take the character as far as she can go. Let’s just hope that if there are sequels, things slow down enough that she can be something more than a card in the deck.

Heart of Stone is streaming on Netflix now.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Heart of Stone
Travis Hopson has been reviewing movies before he even knew there was such a thing. Having grown up on a combination of bad '80s movies, pro wrestling, comic books, and hip-hop, Travis is uniquely positioned to geek out on just about everything under the sun. A vampire who walks during the day and refuses to sleep, Travis is the co-creator and lead writer for Punch Drunk Critics. He is also a contributor to Good Morning Washington, WBAL Morning News, and WETA Around Town. In the five minutes a day he's not working, Travis is also a voice actor, podcaster, and Twitch gamer. Travis is a voting member of the Critics Choice Association (CCA), Washington DC Area Film Critics Association (WAFCA), and Late Night programmer for the Lakefront Film Festival.
review-heart-of-stoneBeautiful spies battling deadly, globe-threatening AI is all the rage right now. While Tom Cruise is still out there taking death-defying risks in Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning, Gal Gadot is engaged in a smaller-scale mission with similar franchise goals in Netflix's Heart of Stone. It's probably not...