Netflix’s latest Gal Gadot project reveals the shallowness of their action brand and her acting commitment.
This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. Without the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the film being covered here wouldn’t exist.
In the 2023 sea of action movies, setting yourself apart from others becomes increasingly hard. John Wick: Chapter 4, Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part 1, Extraction 2, and more have sparked an action cinema revival. It’s a rebirth that I am incredibly grateful for, certainly.
On the other hand, in the streaming world of Netflix, the action movie is a weekly occurrence. They’re productions placed on the assembly line of “content.” On streaming, the action movies never left, but the love and attention devoted to making them did. Heart of Stone, the newest Gal Gadot vehicle, looks to create a brand of James Bond for Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have its heart in all the right places.
We catch up with Rachel Stone (Gadot) and her MI6 team in the Italian Alps. While she sits in the van with her fellow tech member Bailey (Paul Ready), field operatives Yang (Jing Lusi) and Parker (Jamie Dornan) pursue a notorious arms dealer. Unknown to the rest of the team, Stone is an active double agent under the employ of the secret spy group The Charter. Employing a high-tech AI device known as “The Heart,” they pursue anti-terrorism as dictated by its calculations. Stone must hide in plain sight for the greater good, aided by The Charter’s tech expert, the Jack of Hearts (Matthias Schweighofer), under the leadership of Nomad (Sophie Okonedo).
However, after the opening mission goes wrong, it becomes clear that someone’s trying to sniff out Rachel and the rest of The Charter. An encounter with another spy, Keya Dehawan (RRR star Alia Bhatt), hints that Parker might not be one of the good guys. And yet, no matter how bad it gets, it never seems to threaten Stone. She’s too highly skilled, able to improvise quickly, kick butt, and avoid her enemies every strike.
Heart of Stone has a lot going on. Directed by Tom Harper (Wild Rose, The Aeronauts) from a script by Greg Rucka and Allison Schroeder, it dwells too long on creating the underground spy agency at the cost of cool action scenes. Sequences where Stone parachutes down the side of a mountain, drives through the streets of Lisbon, or fights atop a zeppelin sound great when noted. In execution, though, they’re shockingly bland. On top of that, whereas the Mission: Impossible films meticulously plan and execute Tom Cruise’s stunts to look authentic, Heart of Stone riddles theirs with CGI and green screen coverups. As though adhering to a house style, it looks closer to The Gray Man than anything James Bond ever did.
[T]he newest Gal Gadot vehicle, looks to create a brand of James Bond for Wonder Woman. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have its heart in all the right places.
Gadot’s increasingly bland acting proves another glaring negative. Although she undoubtedly looks the part of the next Angelina Jolie or Charlize Theron, her performance reads as wooden and calculated. There is more for Gadot to chew on, unlike her role in another pathetic Netflix action attempt, Red Notice, or the string of one-scene Wonder Woman cameos in recent DC junk, that’s true. Sadly, Heart of Stone’s more robust material only serves to reveal she’s in drastic need of more training.
Nonetheless, laying the blame entirely on Gadot is unfair. Dornan’s presence, welcome though he may be, feels like an act of coasting. Newcomer Bhatt, on the other, gives it her all, but the role proves too thin to give her a platform. Heart of Stone is ultimately just another globe-trotting super-spy movie that fails to elevate any aspect to the level of memorable. Even the previously mentioned Extraction 2 has the flare of its one-continuous shot action sequences. This Gadot vehicle has neither a single set piece nor performance to make it worth your time.
Heart of Stone starts beating on Netflix August 11.