The Stoneman Murders poster

The Stoneman Murders

wogma rating: The keen should rent; else TV/online (?)

quick review:

All the build-up is justified with an interesting result. Unfortunately, we get 2-3 extra minutes at each twist to predict the next move. And this mars what otherwise could have been a superb thriller.

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Director: Manish Gupta
Running time: 95 minutes
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The Stoneman Murders - Preview

- meeta, a part of the audience

An unsolved mystery in real life has so many potential climaxes. Our imagination is the only limitation. Writer-director Manish Gupta's imagination brings us his plausible solution to the unresolved case of the stoneman murders in the 80s and it's an interesting one too. Only that it has hiccups in the form of drama. That slight over-dramatization that gives the audience a couple minutes to think and makes the shocker twist into an "I knew it!" victory moment for them.

In general, every time a protagonist finds himself in a corner with very little room to escape it makes us want to root for him even harder. And you sense the claustrophobia when doors slowly start closing in on Sanjay (Kay Kay Menon). Fingers being pointed at him, an unhappy wife, a senior who might just be using him as a means to an end, a colleague who's out to get him, a junior who's not completely in-sync with him - all stars aligning themselves just right to make life miserable for him.

The writing is actually reasonably gripping. It has its twists, turns, and re-twists that fit into the short run-time. But it needs more meat for the other characters. The wife, the colleague - could have been delved more into. We are allowed nowhere close to the killer's psyche. Then again, that might not be the point of the movie. Also the language used is extremely inconsistent and distracting. A character who speaks Hindi with a very heavy Bombay dialect suddenly spouts a phrase in chaste Hindi.

Most of the dialogue delivery is left in Kay Kay's safe hands and usually that's a good thing. He starts out as his usual exceptional self. It's a delight to see his composure change from attentive-submissive when he's with his boss to bossy-smug when ordering around his subordinates. And then suddenly it gets weird. He delivers his lines in a staged way which I just couldn't associate with him - the distant look in the eyes while mouthing some really bad lines.

Rukhsar (Sanjay's wife) looks very out-of-place all through. Her attire - the way the cotton sari is draped and the way she's carrying it don't go together at all. Her character's sub-plot has no connection with the rest of the story. I have this creeping suspicion that she's here because she was the only one ready to shed her clothes for that one unnecessary scene and fit the budget!!

You'd think that it's a thriller and has given itself only 95 minutes so they'd be in a rush. But, na-ah...the camera takes its time to scan the room and the characters. Usually, I enjoy slow camerawork, it gives me time to soak in the atmosphere but here it is very random and rather directionless. Not to mention, the typical thriller-violin-shrieking in the background.

I'd have voted for a tighter screenplay. And since it's a short film in the first place, maybe a few minutes to delve into the psyche of the other characters would have made my experience more complete.

- meeta, a part of the audience

17 reviewers(?) - 9 yays 7 so-so 1 nays

Warning: clicking on "full review" will take you to an external website that could contain spoilers.

Thumbs up, by Abhijeet Mhamunkar, Buzz18 : ...Debutante director Manish Gupta (writer of Sarkar) has made a gripping thriller that keeps you on the edge throughout its one hour 40 minutes runtime.... full review

Thumbs up, by Gaurav Malani, indiatimes : ... Despite the liberties and loopholes, the film succeeds considerably in living up to its suspense-thriller genre.... full review

Thumbs up, by Aakar Patel, indya.com : ...The moments of tension in the movie are well handled and in fact quite scary.... full review

Thumbs up, Movie Talkies : ...THE STONEMAN MURDERS is a whodunit that delivers high on the suspense quotient, keeping you glued to your seats through its gripping narrative.... full review

Thumbs up, by Anupama Chopra, NDTV : ...The Stoneman Murders is undone by a sagging script and a feeble conclusion.... full review

Thumbs up, by Sampurn, real bollywoood : ...Manish Gupta who wrote Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar makes a brilliant debut as a director with TSM.... full review

Thumbs up, by Nithya Ramani, Rediff : ...The story keeps you on the edge of your seat, occasionally sending a chill down your spine... full review

Thumbs up, by Sonia Chopra, Sify Movies : ...Fiction meets reality in this tale about the `80s mystery-ridden pavement murders.... full review

Thumbs up, SmasHits.com : ...Acting-wise, Manish Gupta succeeds as writer and also as director. Kay Kay gives yet another excellent performance.... full review

So-So, by Noyon Jyoti Parasara, AOL INDIA : ...The Stoneman Murders is once again an out and out Kay Kay film. He is good as ever. Arbaaz Khan and Vikram Gokhale are decent.... full review

So-So, by Sanjay Ram, Business of Cinema : ...A great story, told not so well is what the film is. It packs in the thrills but just when you reach the zenith you are met with blandness.... full review

So-So, by Taran Adarsh, IndiaFM : ...THE STONEMAN MURDERS is an engrossing fare that would appeal more to the multiplex junta of big centres.... full review

So-So, by Subhash K Jha, Now Running.com : ...Kay Kay Menon with his strong, wry unsmiling presence brings grit to the feeble drama. Arbaaz Khan as his adversary in the police department has nothing much to do... full review

So-So, by Nikhat Kazmi, Times of India : ...Mumbai and its alleys which turn sinister by night, tower prominently as the perfect backdrop of a film which boast of some high-tension moments.... full review

So-So, by TheThirdMan, Upper Stall : ...Technically, the DI leads to a very synthetic looking feel to the film. The film fails to utilize the beauty of Pollachi as effectively as it could.... full review

So-So, ZEENEWS.COM : ...But the film gets inventive towards the end. It seeks out a neat end to the gruesome murders involving intrigue and Satanism within the police force.... full review

Thumbs down, by Khalid Mohamed, Hindustan Times : ...This film looks too much like an assembly-line product.... full review

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This page has additional observations, other than the ones noted in the main review.

Plot Summary

A killer is at large. And he strikes again. And again. And a few more times. What does police officer, Sanjay do to get to this man?

What Worked

  • Sanjay is told that some guy is beaten so hard when he's in prison that he's lost his mental balance. Loved the irony because Sanjay is known to beat prisoners all the time
  • The scene where a street boy who's turn it is to guard the pavement dwellers meets Kay Kay. The boy's fear is so real.
  • The huge stone with the kumkum/sindoor (red powder) sure looked creepy. Even though you know its there, it brings squirms when the camera turns to it.

What did not

Note: This section simply lists the things that I did not like in this movie. This is not the overall impression about this movie. Please read the full review here

  • The texture of the film felt very uneven. Sometimes the colors would be all too bright and sometimes dull browns and grays.
  • How do newspaper cuttings on soft-board help when you have complete investigation records with you?
  • There was one murder every Tuesday and Saturday and 5 murders so far. The next one was predicted accordingly. But, its mentioned that the murders started 1.5 months ago. Doesn't add up.
  • Why would a woman leave a door open when she's sleeping inside all alone? And the irony, her man locks the door when he walks in!
  • The blanket seller scene. Looked very abrupt and sort-off off because the lighting didn't look like it was shot at night. Whereas the scene before and after were night scenes.
  • The use of the phrase jismaani sambandh (physical relationship) sounded so awkward by its presence, by the way it was delivered. Everything was just so wrong that it is stuck in my head even now.
  • The sudden change in Sanjay's mood when he reaches his other room.
  • Are any of Mumbai railway stations really that empty when trains are plying?
  • Noone follows Sanjay's blood trail?

Nitty-Gritty

This section lists things that I think are not important to the overall impact of the movie. In most cases, it could be explained away by something like, "we noticed the glitch after the scene was shot and there were schedule/budget issues and thus we could not re-shoot it". I like giving the makers the benefit of doubt, but I am amused nevertheless. Hopefully, they will tickle you too.

  • Women DO NOT sleep with make-up on, especially if they care for their looks!
  • Sanjay calls his senior to say something and hangs up without saying why he called!
  • Why did Sanjay have to change his attire to be in the library??

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: Loads and loads. A serial-killer is on the loose! And policemen who love beating up people are all-set to get him.
  • Language: Some lines with mention of sex and derogatory references to prostitutes.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: One low-end bar scene with prostitutes seeking work. And one scene with a woman undressing.

The Stoneman Murders - Cast, crew, links

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Running time:
95 minutes
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Comments (1)

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@lost in confusion I'd think so, because I think I saw it playing on TV/Tata showcase or something.

ps. sorry for the delay in reply to this one, for some reason set-up for comments by e-mail isn't working, so I've missed quite a few comments on earlier films.

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