The Stone Merchant


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

Made in Italy by Italians, but with an international cast topped by Harvey Keitel, The Stone Merchant is a "cautionary tale" about Islamofascism. The message is that the West should stay on constant vigil against Islamic terrorism, because 9/11 is only the beginning of the spectacularly violent acts planned against the non-Muslim world.

Jordi Molla plays an Italian professor who studies radical Islam, and he has lost both of his legs to a terrorist attack on the American embassy in Nairobi. As the film begins, his wife (Jane March) narrowly escapes a terrorist attack on the Rome airport, and is so severely traumatized that the professor takes her on a a vacation. In a case like this, where your you take your wife to kick back? Maybe hiking in Utah? Sunning and boozing it up in Acupulco or Perth? Someplace where the two of you can forget all about Islamic militancy? That's you. This professor decides to take his wife to Turkey, where they drive through remote locales until their car breaks down and they are obvious Christian tourists stranded amongst ... well, I think you can probably figure it out.

Harvey Keitel plays an Italian who sells precious gems in a touristy section of Turkey, and the couple gravitates to him. In fact, Jane does quite a bit of gravitating, in some ways not originally envisioned by Isaac Newton. It goes without saying that Keitel is a secret convert to Islam, and is using his connections and wealth to further the aims of terrorists in Europe. His seduction of the professor's wife has some murky relationship to his plan to explode a dirty bomb on a ferry in the Dover harbor, an act which he pulls off successfully and which basically ends the story except for a brief epilogue which involves some heavy-handed comments by the professor to his class, thus giving the screenwriter a chance to speak his own summary judgment through the professor's mouth. As you can imagine, given that the lecturer has now lost both his legs and his wife to terrorist attacks, his overview is not positive. He delivers his spiel and the film ends.

Pretty cheery movie, eh?

The point of the film may or may not be correct, but whether you agree or not, the film's execution doesn't justify your devoting any time to it. The film is completely cardboard and one-sided, and the script is so paranoid and so inartistic that it could have been written by Dick Cheney in his underground lair. Salieri plays the slimy, oily head of the militants, and the character is portrayed without any complexity as a single-minded obsessive. He might as well be a moustache-twirling landlord who's tying our heroine to a log in the sawmill, or perhaps more appropriately, a scheming, murderous, scimitar-wielding villain from an Arabian Nights tale, except that this evildoer is accessorized by a Koran and high tech weapons. Keitel's character, being torn as he was between his duty to God and the genuine love he came to feel for the woman he once seduced callously, might have allowed the film to create a more balanced look at the cultural conflict which has gripped the world, but the only humanity Keitel showed was his regret that his masters in the terrorist organization wouldn't let him die on the ferry with the woman he loved. A couple of seedy-looking thugs dragged him away before the ship could sail. I'm not sure why, since they killed him anyway!

To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure why the plotters needed Keitel to seduce Jane March at all, because ol' Salieri himself was actually on the ferry, and he ended up exploding the bomb with a radio-controlled device. I suppose that March was theoretically needed to provide an unsuspicious non-Arab to drive the explosive-laden car onto the ferry, but that explanation holds no water. Keitel was an elderly Italian, ostensibly a Christian, presumably above suspicion, and he was to die anyway, so why not just have him drive the car? Why did the schemers need March in the first place? She just added another element which might have gone wrong at the last minute.

Given the lack of nuance, the one-sided portrayal of Arabs, the lapses in the film's logic, and the tacked-on love story which seems totally inappropriate in context, you're going to have to struggle to find any good reason to spend your time on this film - even if you are a strong Dick Cheney supporter and a die-hard Harvey Keitel fan.  It would be possible to make a good film with a similar message, but it would have to be more thoughtful and complex than this one. It is possible to make good liberal sermons and good conservative sermons, but it is also possible to make bad ones on each side of the aisle, and this falls into the bad group.

The IMDb score of 6.2 does indicate that the movie has an audience. It elicits comments ranging from strong admiration to even more passionate contempt, as you might expect from a propaganda film with such a controversial viewpoint. I don't really see where the supporters of the film have much of a case for recommending it, other than that they basically just happen to agree with its paranoid sermon, and think that the film expresses their own fears in a suitably dramatic fashion.


* widescreen anamorphic

* no features









6.2 IMDB summary (of 10)


No theatrical release in North America. It had a brief run in Italy. Results unknown.


  • Jane March showed her breasts in two scenes, but only from oblique angles and/or a distance.










Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


Very low C-, and that score comes with the adjuration that, based on the IMDb comments, you will undoubtedly have strong feelings for the film either way. Some find it to be powerful moviemaking which conveys a necessary message, while others are appalled by its shallow, stereotypical portrayal of the Islamic characters.