Review: Gal Gadot Sheds Her Superhero Armor for Action Pic Heart of Stone

Gal Gadot has absolutely proven she can play Wonder Woman across multiple films (including cameos in two other DC films this year), but I’m still not sure she’s proven herself as an actual actor—and I’m not saying that to be harsh. It’s just a tougher thing to gauge in action-oriented movies.

I mention all of this to say that her work in the new film Heart of Stone doesn’t help make the case for her being an accomplished actor or even a captivating presence on screen. Directed by Tom Harper (Wild Rose, The Aeronauts), the film centers on intelligence operative Rachel Stone (Gadot), whose team opens the film with a mission that requires Rachel to actually leave the relative safety of the surveillance van and do a little field work to make sure the target doesn’t get away. The moment is scary but thrilling for her, but we soon find out that it might not be the first time Rachel has seen some action.

It turns out she is only posing as a woman-in-the-chair while she actually works for a shadow organization known as The Charter, which uses an advanced AI called the Heart to not just track bad guys but anticipate their moves and capture them without failure when organizations like the CIA or MI6 let someone slip through. Her handler is called Nomad (Sophie Okonedo), while the guy operating the Heart is known only as the Jack of Hearts (Matthias Schweighöfer). The Charter is organized by card suits, with the Kings of each one being the head of their respective teams. Being slightly down the call sheet, Rachel is the Nine of Hearts, with Nomad as the King of Hearts.

It’s not only Rachel’s job to make sure the original mission goes right, but also to keep her identity a secret from her other team members (who include Jamie Dornan as Parker, Jing Lusi as Yang, and Paul Ready as Bailey). But this particular mission does not end as desired because of the distracting presence of a woman named Keya (Alia Bhatt), who lets it be known that she knows who Rachel truly is.

We eventually discover that Keya works for yet another group that is determined to somehow steal the Heart from the Charter and use it for its own purposes. She has inside information (I won’t spoil from whom she gets it), a strong motive for revenge, and the knowhow to make her plan work. Sounds like it could be intriguing, but it rarely is. Mostly, Heart of Stone focuses on wild stunts and fight sequences that are undeniably fun. People are falling though the sky with no parachute or a parachute that’s on fire; there are terrifying motorcycle chases, shootings, stabbings; characters we think are going to live actually die early. There are also unexpected cameos from known-quantity actors playing the other Kings of the Charter. The film is a bit overstuffed in terms of plot and characters, but it’s not entirely unwatchable, and the commitment to pulling off crazy stunts is admirable, if not entirely fulfilling.

But my biggest issue with Heart of Stone is Gadot. I do like that she’s playing a character actually capable of getting hurt; and when she gets punched or otherwise brutalized, we feel it in our guts. But there’s just something about her baseline performance that feels like she isn’t invested in this character. Maybe it’s the lack of understanding of what motivates her to do what is effectively Mission: Impossible-type work. I was far more interested in the Keya character because she possesses an actual source for her rage and desire to get back at the Charter. As a result, the film comes across has hollow and soulless, and I get enough of those in a given year on the big screen that I don’t need to switch over to a streamer to get one more.

The film is now streaming on Netflix.

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Steve Prokopy

Steve Prokopy is chief film critic for the Chicago-based arts outlet Third Coast Review. For nearly 20 years, he was the Chicago editor for Ain’t It Cool News, where he contributed film reviews and filmmaker/actor interviews under the name “Capone.” Currently, he’s a frequent contributor at /Film (SlashFilm.com) and Backstory Magazine. He is also the public relations director for Chicago's independently owned Music Box Theatre, and holds the position of Vice President for the Chicago Film Critics Association. In addition, he is a programmer for the Chicago Critics Film Festival, which has been one of the city's most anticipated festivals since 2013.