Three generations of method acting giants unite for this crime thriller written by Kario Salem and directed by Frank Oz. Robert De Niro stars as Nick Wells, an aging thief whose specialty is safe-cracking and who is on the verge of retiring to a life of ease, running his jazz club and romancing his girlfriend Diane (Angela Bassett). But before he can ride off into the sunset, Nick is pressured to do one last job by his mentor and business partner, a flamboyant and extravagant upscale fence named Max (Marlon Brando). Max is plotting the heist of the Montreal Customs House, and he's got a man on the inside, Jackie Teller (Edward Norton), a talented but volatile crook who has managed to ingratiate himself with the facility's staff as a fellow employee suffering from cerebral palsy. Jackie bristles at Nick's interference in "his" score, however, and threatens violence when it seems he's going to be cut out of the action. In the meantime, Nick grows increasingly ill at ease about the ...
Yep, it's another clichéd script: Career cat burglar Nick (Robert De Niro, Meet the Parents) is about to take on a nearly impossible heist that requires his joining forces with a talented but brash young accomplice, Jackie (Edward Norton, American History X), whom he doesn't particularly like. The dubious alliance, arranged by Nick's longtime friend and fence, Max (Marlon Brando, Don Juan deMarco), throws a wrench into Nick's plan to retire from crime and settle down with his lady love, Diane (Angela Bassett, Supernova).
Uh-huh. The old, "One more job, then I'll retire," routine. But that's where the routine ends. The trio of brilliant lead actors transcend the plot, and overcome the sometimes sluggish direction (courtesy of Frank Oz, who did Bowfinger and many other comedies -- and children's flicks, such as The Indian in the Cupboard). It's an absolute pleasure from start to finish, just to watch and study these men -- but then, they could probably be taking turns reading the phone book and make it seem fascinating. (Angela Bassett is excellent too, but she is unfortunately relegated to the one-dimensional, obligatory "girlfriend role" here.)
The score is a big one: a 16th century royal scepter worth $30 million dollars. It's locked away in the basement of The Customs House in Montreal, Canada, and security is getting tighter by the day. Jackie infiltrates the House, posing as "Brian," a janitor afflicted with cerebral palsy. Norton is flawless in his dual roles (remember his schizo debut in Primal Fear?), and better still, he plays Brian as funny and endearing without ever creeping into caricature-ville. Meanwhile, Nick is figuring out how to bypass the ironclad security system and crack the uncrackable safe. DeNiro doesn't have a lot to do with his character, but what he was given, he runs with. He not only makes you believe the clichés, you like them, dammit. Brando is clearly having fun with his role -- one tailor-made just for him. "I wrote the part specifically for Brando," said co-writer Kario Salem. "I imagined him as a cross between Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams -- someone of great flamboyance and humor and wit and someone of great size, both literally and figuratively." Brando nails it all the way. (Interesting aside: the roles of Nick and Jackie were originally slated for Michael Douglas and Ben Affleck.)
The twist ending is given away a bit too early (but then there's another twist), and there isn't anything here we haven't seen before. However, with three generations of the world's best actors on the screen, The Score scores big.
35 of 48 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this