Heart of Stone (2023) Review: Another big-budget Netflix dud that is annoyingly unoriginal and predictable

Another big-budget Netflix dud that is annoyingly unoriginal and predictable


Netflix has a habit of failing spectacularly. The streaming platform produces so much content in a year that blips like Heart of Stone shouldn’t matter so much. But this film should matter, considering what it cost them to make. Heart of Stone, like Netflix’s prestige Red Notice (2021) is a big-budget disaster that won’t bolster the streamer’s image as an action powerhouse. Despite being around for many years now, Netflix hasn’t quite acquired the status of a  “home box office.”

Heart of Stone and the aforementioned film, both of which star an unimpressive Gal Gadot, suffer from the same problems. The approach to filmmaking is chiefly at fault here. The behind-the-scenes intentions of the filmmakers are unfortunately not supported by originality and dedication. There is only so much the cast can do in front of the camera if there is no effort from the people behind it. 

Gadot plays Rachel Stone, a double agent who has infiltrated the ranks of MI6. She is really an agent of an elite organization called The Charter, whose mission is “world peace.” Unbeknownst to Stone, a conspiracy is unfolding within the ranks of MI6 to steal The Heart, which is The Charter’s crown jewel, a device that can elevate its wielder to the level of playing God.

External forces that include Keya Dhawan (Alia Bhatt) connive with yet another double agent in the MI6 to settle scores of the past. The task for Stone and the rest of The Charter is to ensure that The Heart does not fall into evil hands so its sanctity is preserved in the sanctorum of its operations. 

The Netflix film’s double agent ploy is arguably the only surprise that it has in store for us. Other than that, Heart of Stone is riddled with problems in all aspects of the production.

At the risk of repetition, the spy-action genre today is extremely saturated. There are wafer-thin margins for creators to carve out a story that feels fresh to the viewers. As such, we see the same things being repeated over and over again. Apple TV Plus’ Ghosted, Netflix’s own Red Notice, and Prime Video’s Citadel have all succumbed to this fundamental issue. 

How can the writers keep us glued to the screens and prevent us from hitting that “close window” button? It is an existential crisis that should force many willing filmmakers to abandon the pursuit of such over-familiar projects. Heart of Stone has no subtlety or tact in how it unfolds. The brazen nature of its core conceit really smacks us in the face. Instead of grabbing our attention, it opens our eyes to its formulaic DNA every other minute. Right when a scene begins, there are numerous cues pointing towards exactly what is going to happen.

The film grossly lacks any element of surprise. Its trajectory is devised from the years of cinematic tropes that are common in this genre. The tone is flat from the first minute with hardly any changes. Character development is non-existent. In fact, the origins of Jamie Dornan and Bhatt’s characters are so poorly explained that it is difficult to contextualize them in light of their mission to steal The Heart. Everyone seems to be playing second foil to Gal Gadot, who is unnecessarily aggrandized as a bad-ass girl boss claiming the moral high ground in everything she does.

Gadot seems incapable of carrying the movie, at least on the strength of her acting. She still cannot emote and express herself, although her physicality and stunts are intense and well-matched. Bhatt would have been a much better conduit or anchor to stem the story given her far superior acting prowess.

Due to the poor writing, it’s hard to root for any character so you might struggle to get emotionally divested in the story. Just a couple of lines are deployed to sum up the backgrounds of Gadot and Bhatt’s characters, which is a huge blunder in my reckoning.

The dialogue is weary, dated, and so derivative that you could probably mouth them with the characters. The delivery is also insincere, which speaks to the overall acting quotient of Heart of Stone. On the plus side, the action scenes may engage the audience. While they aren’t as impressive as the budget it took to manifest them, they still hold up well, despite the otherwise imperfect production.

It is high time for Netflix to rethink their strategies around films such as this one. Given budgetary constraints, volatile consumer habits, and the creative crunch Hollywood is facing, all such projects must be held to a higher standard of hair-splitting scrutiny.

Heart of Stone is a snoozefest that perfectly captures the lazy filmmaking ideals that have become frequently common within studios and networks. This is an easy skip for anyone looking to have a relaxing time watching a back-to-basics action flick.


Read More: Heart of Stone Ending Explained

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  • Verdict - 4/10

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