John Lone's career is a particularly frustrating one to examine with his brief skirting with stardom after his early work in the eighties that culminated in his performance in the best picture winning The Last Emperor. His career continued though oddly quickly faded to smaller supporting roles to the point that he has now not appeared in any film in ten years. Where is John Lone? Does anyone know? I wish he'd come back. Anyway Lone's career loss is a true shame given his talent and notably is one of the few Asian actors to achieve a real notoriety outside of martial arts based films. With this role he even makes the important transition to playing a role without even an element related to his ethnicity, as the role of Bertram Stone was not written for an Asian actor. It just required a talented one given that it is the traditionally difficult role of the other man. This other man role is a little bit different though as though Lone's Stone's wife is Rachel (Linda Fiorentino), she is also married to our lead the artist Nick (Keith Carradine), this is unbeknownst to Stone obviously. This leads to a different type of dynamic in general since Nick isn't trying to win over the man's wife, rather he just trying to decipher if his wife is coming back to him.
Nonetheless this is a challenging role as it is easy to make this character very ridiculous very quickly, and the caricature within the characters. Thankfully that is not the case due to Lone's considerable talent. Now from the start Lone makes a notable impact through his mere presence, as Stone is initially described as a friend of Houdini's, a businessman, and possibly a murderer, I love the way Stone carries this sense of danger with him. In his eyes and his exact manner he stands out against everyone else in the French cafe. He's not of the artistic bent instead there is this innate harshness that Lone exudes, a definite almost maniacal edge needed for a ruthless businessman. There is a bit of an extra flair that only an actor like Lone would bring. He takes it a bit further by creating this sense of knowing towards Stone's knowledge that people see him in dangerous. In turn there is just this certain degree of cheekiness that it particularly effective in creating the sense of Stone's position in this role. Lone shows a man who knows he isn't like those around him, and part of him does enjoy this simply in terms of enjoying the fear they have for him. In his initial confrontations with Nick, I love the way that Lone portrays Stone as loving the way he pushes around Nick, particularly in their one sided boxing match, as a man who is aware of his power without any shame in using it.
Now that would be kind of enough, as Lone is already great as the other man as the villain, but there is more to his performance than that. Stone in the film is trying to use his acquired wealth to buy himself into the art scene. This idea is key to Lone's performance, and his motivation for this is only truly explained through Lone's performance. What we see in Lone is a man who has gotten just about everything he wants although with the wish to keep his wife. Lone in this regard creates a very subtle desperation that he attaches to Stones's attempts to join the artistic movement by buying it out. In turn Lone's performance makes this part of the man's wish to retain his wife through becoming a proper part of the world. Lone's terrific in the way he does this wholly in his own work, and in such a quiet way that slowly builds throughout the film which culminates when Stone buys some masterpieces from Nick and his art dealer friend. This is denied from him when they are said to be fakes by the art crowd, to which leads Stone to destroy the paintings. This is downright amazing scene for Lone. On when end he reveals the ruthless businessman as he goes about stabbing and burning the paintings.
There is also to the sheer venom towards the art crowd that has rejected him. Lone's outstanding as he doesn't even raise his voice yet there is such a palatable intensity in his hatred towards them. This is only part of it though as that straight hatred is important as Lone shows that he doesn't care about the art crowd, but he does care about the rejection since it also means his wife will reject him. This is found that in the viciousness of his intensity there is there is a more vulnerable desperation as Lone plays it as though the only thing holding Stone together is the hate. It's incredible as I found Lone actually rather affecting by reveal such a genuine pain within the man violent demeanor. Lone naturally leads to the final confrontation where he finally loses his front to reveal the wretched man beneath of it. Lone makes it genuine, and even offers a bit of sympathy for the fiend in his final moments mastering one of the trickiest types of roles. Now before I can end this review I do have to mention Lone's final scene that while has no relevance to his arc it is a bit of mad brilliance in Lone's physical performance. The moment consists of performing an escape trick in a strange circumstance and Lone captures through the insane glee he brings in the moment as man who is on some other plain of existence. This is a great performance by John Lone and yet another reminder why he needs to come back to us.