The Score (2001) / Thriller-Action

MPAA Rated: R for language
Running Time: 124 min.

Cast: Robert Deniro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Angela Bassett
Director: Frank Oz
Screenplay: Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs, Scott Marshall Smith

Review published July 14, 2001

In a summer where Hollywood typically tries to wow us with grandiose special effects epics, it's refreshing to see such an old fashioned caper not only released amid the blockbusters, but a well-made one at that.  The Score stars some fine method actors, who use their talents to make their characters believable enough such that we will be riveted to find out their fates when the main event of the heist takes place.  Credit to some of the most talented people in front and behind the camera should go out because The Score flat-out works.

In the old-fashioned plot, Robert De Niro (Meet the Parents, The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle) plays Nick, who feels pressure from his would-be fiancée (Bassett, Supernova) and his age that he should quit stealing for a living and finally settle down.  He plans one last haul for his friend Max (Brando, The Island of Dr. Moreau) to steal a royal scepter, which happens to be a French national treasure, and make $6 million for himself on the deal.  Under the intense security of the Montreal Customs, the plane seems ever more difficult as the days progress, and making things difficult for Nick is the fact that he is all but forced to have to work with Max's contact inside the customs house, Jackie (Norton, Keeping the Faith), who is new to the game but might be the biggest hotshot in town. 

The acting is top-notch, as is the assured direction by Frank Oz (Bowfinger, In & Out), making this one of the better films of 2001.  There isn't too much we haven't seen before, so it's a bit of a subdued film as we mostly watch De Niro and Norton going through familiar paces.  Yet, despite the pedestrian nature of the story, The Score earns most of its points with fresh writing and smart characterizations.  We like the characters and everyone down to the smallest role plays their parts with believability.  It would have been easier to go for titillation and over-the-top action, but wisely this is eschewed for the storyline.  In this era, this kind of dinosaur of a movie is a bit of an oddity, so it's ironic that an un-hip and subdued film like The Score could seem so cutting edge. 

Qwipster's rating:

©2002 Vince Leo