The Score

UK release date: Mar 26 2008

cast list

Robert DeNiro
Edward Norton
Angela Bassett
Marlon Brando

directed by
Frank Oz

The Score delivers the summer movie goods in abundance. A very well-made, hugelyentertaining film that is a recalls the heist genre flicks of the 1960s and’70s, The Score proves that they do still make them like they used to every oncein a while.

Robert DeNiro plays Nick Wells, a Montreal jazz club owner who also happens tobe a professional thief. Nick is looking forward to calling it a day in thecrime department so he can concentrate on his club and settle down with hisgirlfriend, a flight attendant named Diane (Angela Bassett) who is willing tolive with him if and only if he stops being a thief.

His longtime fence, Max (Marlon Brando), may just have the job Nick has beenlooking for: a smuggled (and valuable) French scepter has been impounded deepinside Montreal’s Customs House. Its value is rumored to be in the area of about$30 million (Nick would see about six million of that).

Of course, there are a couple of strings attached: one is that the heist wouldtake place in Montreal, the city that Wells resides in. One of his steadfastrules is that he will not do scores in the city he lives in. The other is thathe works alone. Unfortunately for Nick, the person who had the idea for theheist, a cocky young upstart named Jack Teller (Edward Norton), wants in.

In theguise of a mentally challenged janitor named Brian, Jack has been casing out theplace for weeks. Of course, the two have completely different styles of “work”ethic and aren’t exactly crazy about each other. But, in order to pull the scoreoff, they do need each other and that makes them reluctant partners.

So, as you can figure out from the above, The Score uses as many clichs as itcan to tell its story (the old pro out for one last score, the wise old mentor,the arrogant new kid on the block). Yet, director Frank Oz, along withscreenwriters Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs and Scott Marshall Smith know how to makethe material work. They take their time to establish the characters, scenariosand introduce us to various techniques used in planning and executing a heist.

This allows for the actors to bring their characters to life while also givingus an opportunity to get involved with the story’s events. Oz, after directinglight-as-a-feather comedies like Bowfinger and Housesitter, shows that he canhandle dramatic material just as well (the tension he builds during the heist isvery impressive). What is even more impressive is the fact that The Score isvirtually free of the violence and destruction that normally accompanies filmsof this sort (like Swordfish), which should hopefully make it more accessible toa wider audience.

Norton, DeNiro and Brando, working perfectly together, fill the screen withMethod Acting greatness (big surprise there, huh?). DeNiro’s Nick is an oldervariation on his character from 1995’s Heat, one that says little but has a lotgoing on internally. Brando, whose choices in movie roles over the past decadeor so have been eclectic to say the least, nicely underplays his supporting roleas Max. His genial approach to the mentor role is his most appealing since TheFreshman.

Norton, however, is the real standout here. Ever since his debut in1996’s Primal Fear, Edward Norton has continued to cement his standing as thebest young actor to hit Hollywood in a very long time. He is entirely convincingas both the cocky young punk Jack and the mentally challenged Brian and hisinteraction with DeNiro proves he can more than hold his own against the best ofthem. Only Angela Bassett fails to make an impact on the viewer as DeNiro’sgirlfriend. The blame cannot be placed on her though as her screen time isextremely limited and the character itself is underwritten.

The Score may not set the world on fire and it will not reinvent the heistgenre. But it does remind us of the things that make a movie worthwhile:character, a workable plot and competence on both sides of the camera. It alsoaccomplishes something that most films this summer haven’t been able to do:entertain.

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