In 'Stone,' which hit DVD and Blu-ray yesterday, Edward Norton plays a convicted arsonist who offers up his beautiful wife (Milla Jovovich) to his soon-to-retire parole officer (Robert DeNiro) in an effort to gain an early release from prison. Some guy, right?
That role ties in nicely to what is arguably Norton's best role, as a convicted drug dealer facing a 7-year prison term in Spike Lee's '25th Hour,' released in 2002. If 'Stone' shows that bad people can become even worse after they've been imprisoned for years and years, '25th Hour' persuasively shows the other side of the coin: What if just the threat of prison is enough to cause someone who has taken the wrong path to go straight?
Norton made '25th Hour' at roughly the midway point of his career, so far. He smashed his way into public consciousness 15 years ago with his blood-curdling performance in 'Primal Fear,' in which he played an altar boy accused of murder. He outright stole the picture from the leads, Richard Gere and Laura Linney; all you wanted to do was watch the kid. (Norton was 26, but he looked much younger.) He seemed to have sprung fully-formed from the air, though he had an interest in the dramatic arts since childhood and had acted in stage productions in New York and Los Angeles after graduating from Yale University.