Producers: David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Don Granger, Jaron Varsano, Gal Gadot, Bonnie Curtis and Julie Lynn Director: Tom Harper Screenplay: Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder Cast: Gal Gadot, Jamie Dornan, Alia Bhatt, Sophie Okonedo, Matthias Schweighöfer, Paul Ready, Jing Lusi, Archie Madekwe, Enzo Cilenti, BD Wong, Mark Ivanir, Jon Kortajarena and Glenn Close Distributor: Netflix
A bombastic action thriller that feels like a patchwork of bits and pieces recycled from other, better movies, “Heart of Stone” even fails in the attempt at a clever title. The Stone is Rachel (Gal Gadot), an MI6 operative; the Entity (sorry, the Heart) is the plot’s MacGuffin, a quantum computer so powerful that it can hack into any device and control, or destroy, the world. Fortunately it’s being employed to save it from harm instead by the Charter, an organization that uses the thingamabob, a contraption that looks rather like a chandelier and is stored in some sort of high-flying dirigible called The Locker, to handle potentially devastating threats to global well-being that ordinary national intelligence services can’t, or won’t, address. Though an agent of British intelligence, Rachel secretly works for the Charter too.
As the movie opens, Rachel is part of an MI6 operation that has lured reclusive arms dealer Mulvaney (Enzo Cilenti) from his lair to participate in a gambling tournament at a casino in the Alps, where the team of do-gooders intends to nab him: field agents Parker (Jamie Dorman) and Yang (Jing Lusi) are supposed to inject him with a drug that will mimic a heart attack, and they’ll hustle him off. A snafu in the plan forces Rachel to leave her usual safe post in the surveillance van she shares with her partner Bailey (Paul Ready) and go into the casino to save the day. Despite her best efforts, the mission still misfires because of the intervention of mysterious young super-hacker Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt), and trying to escape in a cable car Mulvaney takes a cyanide pill while fighting with Parker.
Rachel then calls on her Charter connection to get information from Jack of Hearts (Matthias Schweighöfer), the tech genius who reads The Heart’s predictions off a holographic board, that help her take out Mulvaney’s security detail, saving Parker from them. Her rashness cause some discomfort back at Charter headquarters, where four former intelligence masters known as the four Kings—of Hearts (Sophie Okonedo), Spades (Mark Ivanir), Clubs (BD Wong) and Diamonds (Glenn Close)—collectively control The Heart (with the King of Hearts, also called Nomad, in charge of field operations).
Meanwhile at MI6 headquarters, Stone and her team track Dhawan to Portugal and are sent to capture her there. But disaster strikes. The team finds itself in the crosshairs of a squad of assassins led by a glaring baddie called The Blond (Jon Kortajarena), and after a tortuous chase through the streets of Lisbon, Stone is forced to confess her role in Charter to her comrades. Unfortunately, one of them turns out to be a traitor who, in partnership with Keya, intends to use Rachel as an unwitting tool to hack into Charter’s operating system and gain control over The Heart for nefarious purposes. The motive? Revenge.
The rest of the movie offers further succession of globe-trotting set-pieces—a fight aboard The Locker (with characters running atop it, rather than the customary train), a harrowing parachute dive into the African desert, a hiatus for recovery, a final confrontation at a research laboratory in Iceland, where The Heart can be maintained in the ultra-freezing temperatures such computers require. By the close explosions and gunfire have carried off many, but the villain is foiled, Keya has been rescued from the dark side, and the world is saved to continue its day-to-day wars and massacres.
If you’re not offended by the obvious dependence on CGI (courtesy of the visual effects team headed by Mark Breakspear) in the action sequences, “Heart of Stone” is a competent, professional piece of work from the technical standpoint. Charles Wood’s production design, George Steel’s cinematography and Mark Eckersley’s editing are all more than adequate, and Steven Price’s score does what it’s supposed to do, though it’s nothing special.
The same could be said of the picture as a whole. It does, however, offer ample proof that Gadot can handle action heroine duties with aplomb, even without Wonder Woman’s magic belt. Otherwise her performance is adequate but little more. The rest of the cast tend to overdo, as is common in this sort of material, with Dornan the worst offender.
The movie ends with a coda suggesting that sequels might be in the offing. Any such franchise would be a boon for Netflix. For the rest of us, not so much.