Gal Gadot kicks her way through ‘Heart of Stone’

The new movie is light years better than Gadot’s last Netflix flick, Red Notice, although that is an extremely low bar.

 GAL GADOT in ‘Heart of Stone.’  (photo credit: Robert Viglasky/Netflix)
GAL GADOT in ‘Heart of Stone.’
(photo credit: Robert Viglasky/Netflix)

If it’s one of those days when it’s so hot you don’t even want to get off the couch to go to the multiplex, you can stream the new Gal Gadot movie from Netflix, Heart of Stone, starting on August 11. Here’s some good news: It’s just about as good as any action movie you would find on the big screen, and even better than some of them – it’s way more entertaining than Meg 2, for example.

And more good news: It’s also light years better than Gadot’s last Netflix flick, Red Notice, although that is an extremely low bar. Heart of Stone, which is plotted much like a James Bond movie, and features Rachel Stone (Gadot) as the 007 figure, mixes in touches from the Jason Bourne and Mission Impossible franchises, as well as a few apocalyptic flourishes from the Matrix movies. It seems to have been created as a showcase for Gadot and as the first of a series starring the Rachel Stone character. Gadot, one of the producers of the film along with her husband, Jaron Varsano, knows very well how to play to her strengths and give the action-movie audience just what it craves.

Set in the Alps, Iceland, Senegal, London, and Lisbon, Heart of Stone, directed by Tom Harper, is about a high-level hacker (Rachel) who works with British Intelligence.

In the opening sequence, she infiltrates an exclusive, isolated casino/ski resort – the kind of place that is frequently portrayed in spy movies but which I doubt exists nearly as often in real life – to get her fellow undercover operatives onto the guest list so that they can abduct a dastardly arms dealer.

Rachel’s fellow agents are Parker (Jamie Dornan of the Fifty Shades of Grey franchise, who goes through the movie with a mischievous Christian Grey smile that makes you wonder whether he’s got a hairbrush in his back pocket), as well as a cat-loving getaway driver played by Paul Ready and Yang (Jing Lusi) – a woman who likes to party and wear slinky dresses. Alia Bhatt plays another hacker bent on avenging the deaths of her parents at the hands of a callous industrialist. Those details are about as deep as the movie gets in terms of character development.

 GAL GADOT in 'Red Notice'. (credit: Courtesy)
GAL GADOT in 'Red Notice'. (credit: Courtesy)

Early on, there are some dazzling stunts in snow-covered hills, moments that would be quite at home in any Bond film. But it soon turns out that the MI5 agents are not the only spies around, and that a shadowy multi-national organization called Charter protects all things good in the universe. Charter controls something called the Heart, which is the greatest supercomputer of all time, capable of hacking anything and everything, and certainly no one would want it to fall into the wrong hands – but of course, the bad guys have set their sights on it. Several leaders of the group, notably Nomad (Sophie Okonedo, who has been making a big impression in whatever role she plays since she was a gutsy call girl in Dirty Pretty Things more than 20 years ago), will do whatever it takes to keep the Heart beating for the common good, so to speak.

Matthias Schweighöfer, who can currently be seen in Oppenheimer as well, stands around conjuring holograms with his hands in a control center, in the kind of special-effects-heavy scenes that will likely make our grandchildren snicker and will one day date this movie as quintessentially 2020s entertainment.

There’s really no way to say any more about the story without revealing spoilers, so suffice it that there are more than a few twists. Some you will see coming, some you won’t. Some you will care about, some you won’t. And there are huge action scenes at regular intervals, some of which you may even remember after the credits roll. There is a car chase in Lisbon in the style of the one through Paris in The Bourne Identity that’s very good. There is thrilling cinematography, as well as a pulsing score and many pop tunes.

The action is punctuated by Gadot and the other characters trading zingers as if steering cars through hairpin turns and leaping out of planes was nothing more than a warmup for standup comedy routines. Gadot has always been good at this kind of thing and she almost makes you forget the clunky plotting. A trained martial artist, she shines in all the scenes where she gets to fight head-to-head with the bad guys. And with her distinctive voice and low-key delivery, she makes the quips as amusing as they can be.

If only Gadot could use playfulness between stunts

Watching Heart of Stone made me wish that Gadot would take a role where she gets to use the playfulness she shows in interviews and in her Instagram posts for more than a few throwaway lines between stunts. She has carefully cultivated her image for years in the action spotlight and is now in post-production on a Snow White movie, in which she plays the Evil Queen, and in pre-production on a new version of Cleopatra; a biopic about a Holocaust heroine; and a miniseries about Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr – as well as, of course, Wonder Woman 3, in which she will undoubtedly save the world again.

But she showed a comic spark in the Israeli film, Kicking Out Shoshana, and she got to portray a super spy for laughs in Keeping Up with the Joneses, alongside Jon Hamm. I’d love to see her playing up her goofier side again.

There is a saying in Hollywood, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” but I would paraphrase it to say that kicking butt is easy, while a real comedy would be the ultimate challenge for Gadot.