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by: Michael Dequina

Since her breakthrough performance in 1992's Basic Instinct, Sharon Stone has been intent on proving that she is a "serious actress." Yet while she earned her critical and industry vindication with her Golden Globe-winning and Academy Award-nominated turn in 1995's Casino, Stone still feels she has something to prove.

Stone's latest bid for her already-won respectability (further cemented by her generally well-received turn in 1996's Last Dance and her recent Globe nod for last year's The Mighty) is Gloria, director Sidney Lumet's update of John Cassavetes's 1980 drama of the same name, which earned star Gena Rowlands matching Oscar and Golden Globe nominations. I have not seen the original film, but on her own merits (despite a distracting accent, which also marred her otherwise strong Last Dance work), Stone delivers an appropriately steely but warmly comedic turn as the title character, a gangster's (Jeremy Northam) ex-girlfriend who takes under her wing a young boy (newcomer Jean-Luke Figueroa) whose family was killed by the gangster's crew.

It is highly doubtful, though, that Stone will duplicate Rowland's double nomination, for the film overall is much less effective than she is. Although the film had been sitting on Sony's shelf for a year, and the studio opted not to screen it for critics, Gloria is not the disaster those facts would suggest; the film is simply more dull than anything else. Lumet is no stranger to the streets of New York, having walked the territory in films sush as Dog Day Afternoon and Serpico, and the look and atmosphere of Gloria bears a gritty authenticity. But there's little Lumet can do to juice up Steven Antin's suspenseless update of Cassavetes's original script--not even an extended car chase. Not long after the setup, where Gloria is released from a Florida prison; a mob thug murders the family of the kid, Nicky; and the two meet, the film settles into a predictable rhythm. Scenes of Gloria being simultaneously annoyed and charmed by Nicky alternate with those of her ex, Kevin, ordering his men to find and kill the pair and retrieve the precious floppy disk in the Nicky's possession. The repetitive nature of the script could have been made somewhat bearable if it built to an exciting climax and resolution, but there is neither. The conflict with Kevin is resolved in a most anticlimactic fashion, and the outcome of the Gloria/Nicky relationship is pretty much what one can predict from the get-go.

So, yes, Miss Stone, you can act, as we can see yet again in Gloria. We get it already. Now it's time to start entertaining your audience, something you haven't done in much too long.

RATING: ** 1/2 (out of *****)


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