The Score Review
Despite the publicity tag of 'three generations of method actors' starring in The Score, the film's reception at the box office wasn't as illustrious as expected. Whilst some hailed the film as a good, conventional heist flick others found the film's pacing slow and anticlimactic in its delivery.
Maybe the unexciting plot is one of the film's minus points. Here is a story set-up in which a master robber is determined to retire from crime and settle down in the wealthy life he has built himself (due to newly acquired love from a woman) and yet is forced into 'one more job' that could spell disaster. Hardly an original premise. The expert is Nick (the graceful Robert De Niro), who has taken a shine to his 'normal' life since acquiring a nice house and becoming the owner of a hip jazz bar. Nick is determined to settle down in Montreal with love of his life Diane (Angela Bassett), who will only marry him if he gives up his life of crime. However, rich friend and crime fence Max (Marlon Brando) gives Nick an offer he can't refuse, and hires him to steal a valuable sceptre from a Montreal Customs vault. The only problem for Nick is the volatility of young Jack (Edward Norton) who has also been hired by Max for the job. Jack is hungry for success and keen to impress, and could prove dangerous to the completion of the job and to Nick's retirement plans.
Director Frank Oz (Bowfinger, Dark Crystal, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels), more commonly known as the voice of Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show, originally wanted the film to be a cheap and gritty thriller that paid homage to the seventies heist movie, hence the cool Lalo-Schifrin-esque jazz soundtrack the film employs. However, the film's budget ballooned to seventy million dollars after De Niro ($15m), Norton ($6.5m) and Brando ($3m) signed on. The film's is arguably more famous for the behind-the-camera trouble it received, particularly with the infamously troublesome Brando, who took umbrage at Oz's direction, and taunted the director with 'Miss Piggy' insults, claiming that Oz merely saw him as another Muppet. At one point, tensions were so thick that Robert De Niro had to direct Brando in one sequence, and he was receiving instructions from Oz via messages from the assistant director.
What of the film itself? Well, it's easy to see why some were put off by The Score due to its slow pacing, particularly in the film's first half. Director Frank Oz admits in the film's accompanying featurette that he saw the film first and foremost as a character study and secondly as a heist flick, and this explains why he devotes the first half of the film almost entirely to the development of characters. The films is extremely exciting when it comes to the actual heist, but by then many viewers have already nodded off due to the slow first half. Acting wise, De Niro and Norton are excellent, and there are signs of some good competitive chemistry amongst the two. Angela Bassett has good screen presence, but her character is only a sideline player in the scale of things. As for Brando, what can you say...In light of all of the trouble he caused behind-the-scenes you can almost sense director Frank Oz cursing the day Brando ever accepted the role. Brando is so bad it's funny, because it is so obvious whilst watching him that he blatantly has no care if he is perceived as terrible by the audience. Obviously he feels his previous work is enough to be judged by.
The Score is a competent enough thriller and average character study, but is lacking in most departments. The excitement is not sustained throughout and the characters aren't interesting enough. There are times throughout the film when you realise you are supposed to sympathise and support the main protagonists, who not only uninteresting, but are also criminals who are more wealthy than the usual viewer.
Presented in anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen, the picture quality is genuinely pleasing, with some sharp tones. The film has a sort of pale green tint to all of its proceedings, and therefore isn't the most visual of films, but the transfer is fine despite this.
Presented in both 5.1 and 2.0 mixes, the sound is crystal clear with frequent spreading of all of the channels, but is still lacking in some respects. There are many scenes that sound too much like the film was made in a soundstage. Even so, the jazzy Howard Shore soundtrack is extremely atmospheric, and the heist scene pits you right in the centre of the action due to clever sound channelling.
Menu: A dark animated menu in keeping with the robbery theme of the film, with the prerequisite explosions and time-code beeps. Portions of Howard Shore's score are also included.
Packaging: An uninspired Paramount amaray piece of packaging. Featuring the usual Widescreen Collection trim and a boring front cover containing a picture of De Niro and Norton.
Screen Specific Audio Commentary With Frank Oz & Rob Hahn: An interesting if dry commentary by director Oz and director of photography Hahn. The two participants are quite good when it comes to screen specific pieces of information, although the most interesting aspect is Oz commenting on his frequent run-ins with Brando. Oz however, refuses to stoop to the insult level that Brando resorted to. You could argue that the lack of De Niro and Norton in the commentary is a noticeable.
The Making Of The Score - Featurette: The usual twelve minute featurette mixing scenes from the film with promotional interviews from the cast and crew. Essentially a padded-out trailer for the film, the featurette lacks anything informative, but is acceptable enough as a time-filler. Presented in non-anamorphic 4:3.
Additional Footage: Three sequences are presented. The first two are simply alternate versions of two scenes - the meeting between De Niro and Norton in the coffee shop and an extended Mose Allison performance from the jazz club. The real treat however, is an uncut sequence of De Niro and Brando improvisation, which suggests that when given a free reign over proceedings Brando is even worse in his method acting and even more hilarious. Presented in non-anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen.
Theatrical Trailer: A good trailer that presents The Score as a film more tense and exciting than it ultimately ends up to be when watching. Presented in non-anamorphic 1.85:1 widescreen.
An average film presented with just-above-average extras, The Score is only going to appeal on a purchase front to die-hard fans of the film or die-hard fans of the crime caper genre. It's a good, straight devotee of heist flick conventions and is worthy of a night's entertainment, but not necessarily worth owning.