The Score Review

Raphael Pour-Hashemi has reviewed the theatrical release of The Score.

An unoriginal yet inspired robbery genre piece containing three generations of method acting – De Niro, Norton and Brando.

There are already quite a few movies centring around a robbery of some sort. Dog Day Afternoon, Heat, Reservoir Dogs and Bonnie And Clyde to name a few all tackle robbery from different narrative angles. However, this summer’s The Score is as un-inventive a robbery movie you are ever likely to see.

Featuring three generations of method acting leading men, Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton, The Score attempts to go one further than Heat’s pairing of De Niro and Pacino by combining De Niro with Brando in certain scenes (the two men both played Vito Corleone at different ages in The Godfather saga). Rumours have circulated that Brando was as troublesome as ever to work with on the set, and poor director Frank Oz (of Muppets and Bowfinger fame) had to resort to using a mediator to direct Brando, as the larger than life prima donna refused to listen to Oz and kept taunting him with ‘Miss Piggy’ insults. To make matters worse, Brando would turn up on the set naked from the waist down in order to force Oz not to film below his waist. This negative publicity severely hampered the film’s US box office taking (although it still performed quite respectably).

The premise of The Score doesn’t help matters either, with the usual ‘expert robber wants to pull out of crime for love of a women but is convinced/forced to do one more job before he retires, and the job always becomes more complicated’. The expert is Nick (played with a touch more humanity than usual by Robert De Niro), who has actually built a decent life for himself in the form of a nice house and the ownership of a jazz bar. Nick is determined to settle down in Montreal with love of his life Diane (Angela Bassett). However, rich friend and crime lord Max (played by the Orka-like Brando) gives Nick an offer he can’t refuse and hires him to steal a valuable sceptre from a Montreal vault. The only problem for Nick is the volatility of young Jack (Edward Norton) who has also been hired by Max for the job, as Jack is hungry, keen to impress and could prove dangerous to the success of the job and to the success of Nick’s retirement from crime.

As long as you don’t expect anything original or spectacular from The Score, the film works fairly well. It’s meticulously paced, and the first act appears at a deadly slow movement narratively speaking. However, by the film’s conclusion, you will concur that the pacing was right and that the film was actually very exciting in the final act without pandering to heavy explosions or gun shoot-outs. Indeed, this notion perfectly sets up The Score, as the film is essentially a very good conventional heist movie, and nothing more. It doesn’t purport to be a classic but just attempts to be a very good example of a genre following movie, and it will probably be remembered more than other spectacular movies because of that. Frank Oz should be commended for switching genres effortlessly and producing a competent thriller even though his roots are in comedy. The score by Howard Shore is very jazz orientated, but jazz often works best in crime capers. It’s also very refreshing in nowadays Hollywood to see a cross-racial relationship, particularly one of the white male/black female variety. The performances by Norton and De Niro are first rate, particularly De Niro, who it seems was starting to lose his edge in Hollywood. Marlon Brando on the other hand comes across on screen as the love child of Jabba The Hut and Baron Harkonnen from Dune, and why the producers bothered to dig him up and let him fill (quite considerably) the screen is anyone’s guess. Brando hams and mumbles every line he has to deliver and is a pale imitation of himself in his Streetcar and Waterfront days.

The Score is an enjoyable caper with an unoriginal plot that is refreshing in that it throws substance rather than style towards the audience. The direction by Frank Oz shows some potential and the final act is one of the most exciting of the past few months, even if the twists are demonstrated earlier than delivered, so on the whole The Score scores quite highly.

Raphael Pour-Hashemi

Updated: Sep 29, 2001

Get involved
Continue the conversation over on The Digital Fix Forum
The Score Review | The Digital Fix