The Score

"Good"

The Score Review


You almost certainly have seen more than one movie about a retiring crook going for one last big score. You may have seen the old crook-young crook rivalry before too. And who hasn't seen an elaborate, high-danger heist climax? Heck, that's been done three times in just the last month, in "Sexy Beast," "Swordfish," and "The Princess and the Warrior."

But you haven't seen any of this done with three of the greatest film actors alive, which is what makes the difference in "The Score," a pulse-racing break-in thriller that shatters the mold because of its absolutely brilliant performances and its handful of entertaining twists.

Robert De Niro plays Nick Wells, the career safe-cracker who is ready to hang up his spurs, settle down with a good woman (in this case Angela Bassett) and just run the swanky upscale jazz bar he owns in downtown Montreal.

But his most recent job didn't go quite as planned -- the buyer for the diamond jewelry he stole died before delivery, leaving him with the hot merchandise. So his well-to-do accomplice, fence and best friend of 25 years -- played with whimsical aplomb by the matchless Marlon Brando -- has one more, incredibly ambitious snatch lined up that could bring in enough money to set them both up for life.

The job: Steal a one-of-a-kind, 16th Century golden scepter from the impossibly high-security holding area of Montreal's Customs House, then sell it for millions. The catch: Their inside man is a talented, but egotistical upstart thief named Jack (the inventive and absorbing Edward Norton), who has been casing the joint and copying keys for weeks, undercover as an autistic night janitor.

The Plan: Jack will break away from his sweeping-up duties and sneak a hidden laptop into a circuit room. He'll patch into the building's security system and briefly turn cameras and alarms on and off so Nick, breaking in from city access tunnels below the building, won't be seen by security guards -- who will hopefully think the short outages are just system glitches. There's more to it than that -- Nick has to figure a way to bust open the most complicated safe he's ever seen once he's inside -- but you get the gist.

Not a bad plot per se, but certainly not all that unique. However, with the presence of these three actors -- who are all without question top talents of their respective generations -- coupled with the handsome, tense and skillful direction of Frank Oz (better known for weightless comedies like "In and Out"), "The Score" rises far above its workaday caper picture origins.

Brando has the smallest role, but his very screen presence brings extraordinary vitality a central-casing type character. He exudes the rascally affluence of a moneyed old crook who nonetheless lives beyond his means (in his gated mansion with his Greek sculpture and his indoor pool). He turns every line of dialogue into a delicious delivered jape, a deeply felt sentiment or a amiably manipulative ultimatum. He steals scene after scene, yet somehow does it without actually upstaging his co-stars, with whom he has a captivating rapport.

De Niro is playing a variation of his signature persona -- the shrewd, impassive but obstinate veteran (cop, thief, spy, mobster, take your pick) -- and he's at the top of his game here. You can see the wheels turning in his head as he's constantly, dubiously sizing up and reevaluating his options and his partners. He trusts his old pal Max (that's Brando), but not enough to dismiss rumors that he's in trouble with the mob and desperate for quick money. He doesn't trust Jack and he has no qualms about making that readily apparent. But he has to work around that mistrust to get the job done.

Norton, who can more than hold his own against these two screen legends, is cocky, glib and a bit of a loose cannon as Jack, who can more than hold his own against these two experienced thieves. It's his performance that really sells the tension and danger of the film's clashing egos, which come out in terse, intelligent, head-butting dialogue written by screenwriters Lem Dobbs ("The Limey," "Kafka") Kario Salem and Scott Marshall Smith.

Once "The Score" arrives at the break-in scene, Oz diligently works through the regulation pressure-cooker build-up, cutting between several simultaneous scenes. Jack hacks into the security system while Nick blowtorches his way into the building from a sewer drain and busts the safe open. At the same time another janitor worriedly looking for Jack (remember, he's passed himself off as autistic) and a pair of security guards slowly come to suspect something is amiss and begin a patrol of the building.

Then there are those plot twists I mentioned.

Oz eloquently plays this all out in real time, wisely letting the silence, sweat and strain work themselves into the viewer's psyche instead of trying to soup up the action with the beat-mix music and random, rapid-fire editing that is so often used as cinematic shorthand in modern crime flicks.

"The Score" has a few nagging problems here and there (for example, one character's getaway is too easy). But it speaks to Oz's directorial aptitude that any such problems are overshadowed by his complete control of the movie's mood. He can even make a simple, public park meeting between Jack and a computer hacker who has the building security codes seem at least as tense as the break-in itself.

The only real frustration with "The Score" isn't an issue with the movie itself, but with the television ad campaign that gives away large, consequential chunks of the climax. I'd like to have a few choice words with the idiot who green-lit those commercials.



The Score

Facts and Figures

Run time: 124 mins

In Theaters: Friday 13th July 2001

Box Office USA: $70.3M

Box Office Worldwide: $71.1M

Budget: $68M

Distributed by: Paramount Pictures

Production compaines: Paramount

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 73%
Fresh: 94 Rotten: 34

IMDB: 6.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Nick Wells, as Jack Teller, as Max, as Diane, Paul Soles as Danny, as Steven, Serge Houde as Laurent, Jean-Rene Ouellet as André, as Sapperstein's Cousin

Also starring: ,

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

Murder on the Orient Express Movie Review

The latest adaptation of Agatha Christie's 83-year-old classic whodunit, this lavish, star-studded film is old-style...

Paddington 2 Movie Review

Paddington 2 Movie Review

The first Paddington movie in 2014 is already such a beloved classic that it's hard...

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

A Bad Moms Christmas Movie Review

Everyone's back from last year's undemanding adult comedy, plus some starry new cast members, for...

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Brawl in Cell Block 99 Movie Review

Filmmaker S. Craig Zahler brought a blast of offbeat creativity to the Western genre two...

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

The Death of Stalin Movie Review

Fans of the film In the Loop and the TV series Veep will definitely not...

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Call Me By Your Name Movie Review

Set in northern Italy in the summer of 1983, this internationally flavoured drama is a...

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

Thor: Ragnarok Movie Review

The most riotously enjoyable Marvel movie yet, this action epic benefits hugely from the decision...

Advertisement
Breathe Movie Review

Breathe Movie Review

While this biopic has the standard sumptuous production values of a British period drama, it's...

The Snowman Movie Review

The Snowman Movie Review

With a cast and crew packed with A-list talent, this film seems like it should...

The Party Movie Review

The Party Movie Review

Comedies don't get much darker than this pitch-black British movie, written and directed by Sally...

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) Movie Review

Noah Baumbach (Frances Ha) is on his way to becoming the new Woody Allen, which...

6 Below Movie Review

6 Below Movie Review

Based on an astonishing true survival story, this film is subtitled "Miracle on the Mountain",...

Mother Movie Review

Mother Movie Review

Darren Aronofsky doesn't make fluffy movies, and has only had one genuine misfire (2014's Noah)....

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

Blade Runner 2049 Movie Review

It's been 35 years since Ridley Scott's 1982 sci-fi classic, which was set in 2019....

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.