Stone Cold DVD

STUDIO: Sony Pictures Television/CBS
MSRP: $17.47 RATED: R
RUNNING TIME: 87 Minutes
Trailers – XXX: State of the Union, Kung Fu Hustle, The Brooke Ellison Story,
D.E.B.S., Lords of Dogtown, The Cave, and Layer Cake.

• Featurette – Beneath the surface of Stone Cold.

It takes a tough film to be able to break free from the relative confines of the vast bland area known as the movie of the week (for purposes of argument, I’m applying this term to all movies whose initial release has been on television). You’ve got to be able to be interesting, stay fresh, and above all, not regress into the relative melodrama that causes viewers to roll their eyes in clichéd infamy over what’s occurring on screen. I haven’t seen many movies of the week that can successfully accomplish this, but Spielberg’s Duel is probably the greatest example (and most thrillingly exciting) of a movie of the week being more than the sum of its parts.

This brings me to the TV adaptation of Stone Cold. It bowed on CBS just a little before the end of February of this year. Star Tom Selleck even helped produce the film, based on the novel by Robert B. Parker (which I have not read), who some of you may know as the gentleman who wrote Spenser: For Hire and who brought Robert Urich into the hearts and pants of everyone. With such a relatively interesting pedigree, does the film suffer from those aspects that can turn a good idea into a melodramatic film that leads you down the path to mediocrity?

The Flick

Tom Selleck is Jessie Stone, Paradise Massachusetts’ Police Chief. Paradise is a sleepy place, a summer getaway. With it being the end of autumn, right before the season’s first snow begins to fall, the town is rather limp and lifeless, like most seaside Northern New England small towns. One of Stone’s deputies, Luther "Suitcase" Simpson, stops to take a leak (not a steady one, mind you), and discovers a dog, named Reggie, standing out alongside the jagged rocks to shore. Upon further investigation, Suit discovers a recently deceased body with two alarming shotgun wounds in his chest. He quickly caps the dog in its busted ass for leading him to more paperwork. Then, he eats it. With a dash of pepper.

"Is that you or James’ Wood?"

Stone doesn’t bat much of an eyelid at this turn of events, partly because he’s seen this before, but we don’t know where (yet). He takes everything into account and begins his search for Mr. Kenneth "Death Is Great" Isley’s killer, or killers. He doesn’t know for certain. A monkey wrench further complicates things when he’s made aware of a recent gang rape of a local high-school girl, Candice, via her mother and her abusive ways (she slaps her, so that’s how I figured that one out). Stone vows to do all that he can do to help Candice out, thus sending Molly Crane (the great Viola Davis, but not here). He connects with her in the relative chaos surrounding her ordeal.

As we start to go a little wider, we’re discovering that this town is host of some dirty, dark secrets, ones that are beginning to take shape. It doesn’t help the cause as two serial killers, a couple by the name of Lincoln, are bunkering down in Paradise for a little while. It should also be noted that this isn’t a spoiler. In typical movie of the week fashion, the killers are brought forth into the audience’s consciousness right off the bat. In this case, I believe it’s around 15-20 minutes into the you-know-what’s-coming storyline. It has several consequences. At first it drains all of the tension from your film. Secondly, it now becomes a case of the audience having more information than your standard hard drinking, grizzled hero, Stone, and thus, it becomes a game (except it’s not fun!) of – will he or won’t he figure it out? Third, when you have two mediocre actors in a confusing relationship that isn’t defined as much as it is just a given, it leads you to think of the killers as two wooden idiots, not worth Stone’s time. We’ll get to this a little later.

"The dead really hate it when you kick ‘em like THIS!"

While Selleck has his team on the new cases, the killing, and the gang raping of Candice, he’s striking up a no-strings attached relationship to Abby Taylor, Paradise’s only town Lawyer. Their time together is really unnecessary, because Selleck just sits there, staring off into space, while Abby coaxes long, boring bits of exposition out of him. Therefore, we find out about that he’s divorced (or estranged, as the film doesn’t make this clear) and he’s a hard drinker who’d rather forget the past. There’s no real chemistry between these two lovebirds. Their scenes together feel hollow and unimportant, as if someone were checking off their gigantic clichéd checklist of things to be done before the story can end. Skewed relationship with our hard drinking hero? Check. Girl who doesn’t mind being in no-strings attached situation when clearly she loves him more than he does to her? Check.

Another body is found, although the pieces aren’t fitting together. At this point we learn a little more of the Lincoln’s M.O. And it’s really, really stupid. They drive around in their Black BMW or Red Ford Explorer and look out for people. Andy, the husband, videotapes anything he wants, while Brianna, the wide-eyed wife, decides whom they happened to bump into or let borrow the paper to exterminate. This couple has no chemistry with one another. It’s like two ships passing in the night. At no point did I believe what they were doing, and it’s only made worse when they’re forced to create their evil plans and sit around watching Andy’s Blair Witch style shaky cam DV footage. The way they plan who their victims are is straight out of grade school (hint: whomever is close to Stone), so it’s incredibly boring and unrealistic to think that Stone can’t figure out who is doing this before he does. Also, credit this to director Robert Harmon (China Lake and Ike: Countdown to D-Day), who sucks all of the tension and creativeness out their relationship. You almost slap your head in confusion and anger.

My Prom Night – Personified

As the narrative developments further progress, coupled with one more killing you see coming a mile away (because the Lincoln’s show it to themselves, yay for being subtle!), the story of Candice is further involved as Stone keeps meeting up with her, and comforting her alongside his new pet companion, Reggie the dog. It’s during these conversations that the Lincoln’s are literally ten feet away, videotaping them. Of course, no one can see them. The Hollow Man must be part of their group. Into Stone’s further inquisitions into the gang rape brings Mr. Marino and his Lawyer Rita Fiore (Mimi Rogers), the pair representing Bo Marino, local high school kid who’s someone Candice doesn’t like. Now Bo is one of those football players who from the first moment he’s presented, there’s no room left for artistic interpretation. He informs Candice that he’ll kill her if she tells about the ‘incident’ and he’s taken pictures that he’ll let get out into the open. It’s only a matter of time before he’s caught, and thus, we get Ms. Fiore into Stone’s life.

At this point a rather expected killing has occurred and it’s only a matter of time before Rogers (who was in the atrocious Lost In Space, from a recent Academy Award winner, mind you) comes sauntering in, hiking up her skirt and non-sexily getting information across to the audience whilst on Stone’s lap. While Selleck really doesn’t do much by this point, she lets the audience know that he’s a former L.A. Cop whose marriage is on the skids and likes to drink. A lot. Gee, tell us something we didn’t know by now. Argh. Seriously. It’s only after this where things start to fully come to a complete head, as Stone Cold starts tying up all of the loose ends, Candice and Stone working together to find solace in life, Stone versus the Lincolns, whom he knows is guilty (if only he could find a motive!), and Stone and his own personal inner demons, who really aren’t there as much as they should be.

"Seriously, that thing looks like it needs medical attention!"

A while back I asked if the film suffered from those aspects that lead it down on the path to mediocrity. Stone Cold leads you down that path. It’s not a great piece of storytelling by any means; it’s uninspired and melodramatic in most instances and confusing in others (is Selleck married or not?). It’s not awfully atrocious either, but it is definitely not a good movie. Maybe this could be due to the haphazardness of the shooting script, which, according to the featurette, wasn’t even finished when they were shooting. Maybe it was the entirely stupid relationship of the Lincolns, who are some of the strangest, most retarded killers put on the small screen in quite some time. Either way, I’m mad at this movie of the week for starting off rather interesting and then taking the long slow trod to mediocre-ville. Damn those Lincolns.

Selleck, supposedly "is perfect" (so says the Hollywood Reporter), but allow me to disagree and say he’s "mildly adequate". He brings a good amount of pathos to his character and not once do you not believe he’s who he is. Stone is a man of few words, who’d rather scowl than smile, a man who above all is a lousy human being (it’s said that he is, although I can’t find any action of this occurring), but a good cop. Most of his character traits are told and not shown, thus creating a confliction between what you see and what is told. It makes it lesser than it is. But – being a cop is all he knows how to do, and although he’s not spectacular, he’s just okay at it. Selleck has a handle on the material, but in the end, he’s just not burning down bridges in the name of spectacular acting.

Every once and a while, she’d just fire off some breast steam.

As for Rogers, she’s not really in the film that much to warrant an evaluation. Her character is just sort of there to provide the necessary back story prodding for the audience to understand why Selleck is like the way he is (although we really don’t need to know; it’s just like throwing pebbles on a huge rock, the rock is already there). I cannot say enough horrible things about Andrew and Brianna Lincoln, played by both Jane Adams and Reg Rogers. These two are horrendous and have no identifiable aspects to make them even remotely worthwhile villains, especially one’s who make Stone’s life so wrapped up and complicated. They’re the ultimate time wasters. Something was wrong from the moment they both reared their heads. This ‘problem’ was not fixed and allows the film to be bogged down by their awful parts together.

There are shreds of good in the mediocre, and most of them are for both director Harmon and cinematographer René Ohashi. Their visuals are interesting and allow you to stay somewhat involved with the relatively lackluster series of events. For a town that’s called Paradise, I’d expect no less, even in the fleeting days of autumn. The musical score, provided by Jeff Beal has some good moments, as it’s a very modern score with a catchy beat in some instances. However, he does regress into movie of the week bombastic melodrama every once and a while. Another ray of light is the variety of aspects of small town living that Harmon and his production designer nail down pat. Stone’s house is the quintessential modern seaside New England house, flannel and all. It feels right. His office is so sparse, but it does remind me of places I’ve visited before in the fictional area the film references (an area north of Boston). They’ve done their homework, or at least I hope they have.

"Come on you sonofabitch! Grow! GROW!"

Additionally, don’t be fooled thinking Brian Bosworth and Lance Henriksen are in this. You’d be wrong (that’s the 1991 classic film). I’d really suggest not even bothering with this one, as Stone Cold is just like its title.

4.5 out of 10

The Look

Presented in the film’s original 1.78:1 aspect ratio. Sometimes the film is a little dark, but I believe that it’s a stylistic choice. The rest of the imagery appears good in most instances and contains a relatively small amount of digital artifacts. They’re not going to get in your way of watching the story, but if you’re looking for some escape, they could provide it. By that point though, just turn the damned thing off.

8.0 out of 10

The Noise

"This is so unsexy. But I kinda like it."

Horrendous. During some scenes, the sound sounds so faded and far away or so low that I’d have to occasionally turn up my speakers and fiddle with my audio. I don’t know if this is a fading problem or whatever, but it’s definitely noticeable.

5.5 out of 10

The Goodies

You get preview trailers for XXX: State of the Union, Kung Fu Hustle, The Brooke Ellison Story, D.E.B.S., Lords of Dogtown, The Cave, and Layer Cake.

There’s also the featurette: Beneath the Surface of "Stone Cold" (runtime: 11:10) that interviews Selleck, Harmon, Rogers, and others as they say how much fun they had on the shoot and masterfully pick new words and phrases to praise all of them around them. It’s a fluff piece, so don’t be fooled into thinking this movie of the week is going to be better than it is. Unless you’re past your prime. Then you might enjoy mediocrity. Fight the power!

"I get the last laugh Magnum, ’cause late at night, when
you’re asleep, I stick my balls in your face!"

4.0 out of 10

The Artwork

The gigantic goateed face of Chief Tom Selleck is threatening to overtake someone’s small house on the seaside. I think it’s time we scrambled out the F-14 fighters out of Pease AFB (before it closes) to rid Massachusetts of their unsightly problems (besides the Big Dig and the Bruins not playing any more) and maybe shed some light on why Selleck has grown this tall. The last thing I want to do is wake up and see a 1,000 foot Selleck masquerading as a cop hovering over my town. On the plus side, his face (along with the imagery presented) does clue you into the angst and feel of the film, due to the dark and drab color scheme.

6.0 out of 10

Overall: 5.6 out if 10