LONDON: Another swing. Another miss. Netflix’s commitment to establishing the next big action-thriller franchise is commendable but, aside from a couple of examples (“Extraction” maybe, “The Old Guard”), the streaming giant’s success rate is, so far, nothing to really write home about.
Next up off the ‘get-an-established-name-to-hang-your-new-IP-on’ conveyor belt is “Heart of Stone,” which sees Gal Gadot star as super spy Rachel Stone, part of an elite group of operatives known only as the Charter which works to maintain world peace. Her team consists of Parker (Jamie Dornan), Yang (Jing Lusi) and Bailey (Paul Ready), and there’s more than a coincidental shade of Tom Cruise/Ethan Hunt’s Impossible Mission Force about the ragtag group of spies as they fight to prevent the world’s most powerful AI computer — known as The Heart — from falling into the wrong hands.
Despite giving the movie part of its title, The Heart is little more than a plot-driving MacGuffin — an excuse for Gadot to get into a variety of scrapes that only skydiving, motorbikes and explosions can rectify. And while “Heart of Stone” boasts some ambition in the spectacle department (even if it is let down by some questionable CGI), there’s an unavoidable sense of déjà vu about much of this movie’s plot, including its ‘twists’ and the almost-insultingly predictable final act.
This really does seem to have been a case of gathering up a host of spy movie clichés, throwing them at the wall, and seeing what sticks. There are obvious elements lifted straight from the “James Bond,” “Jason Bourne” and “Mission: Impossible” franchises — let’s be kind and call them respectful homages, rather than flagrant rip-offs (although, seriously, IP lawyers are probably rubbing their hands together already anticipating a windfall) — but not much that feels original. Alia Bhatt’s turn as a mysterious hacker and Sophie Okonedo’s performance as Stone’s boss are decent, but the whole movie feels horribly labored, paling in comparison to its (mostly better) ‘inspirations’ and staggering under the weight of the franchise that it hasn’t yet built.