Thursday, April 11, 2024

The Score (2001)

Written at the time of the film's release...

The Score (Frank Oz, 2001) This one is most notable for being the last movie Marlon Brando appeared in, and his presence is probably why DeNiro and Norton and Bassett signed on, because, really, this is no great shakes as a film. It's a rather simple "heist movie," with some interesting switch-backs along the way, which works as an effective metaphor for a bunch of people merely generating a paycheck for themselves. 
The first movie directed by Frank Oz that wasn't either a comedy or fantasy, the plot revolves around master-thief Nick Wells (DeNiro), who has decided to retire after a near-disaster during a routine burglary. He knows it's time to get out—he's not getting any younger or any more agile—plus, he's got a rather swanky jazz club to run and right about now would be a good time to settle down with his stewardess girlfriend (Bassett). He's smart, and lasted long enough to know enough to get out while the getting is good.
Then, his fence, Max (Brando) calls with a proposition. The proverbial "one last job" of heist movie clichés. The one to retire on. Seems there's this French scepter thingamabob that was being smuggled into the U.S. through Canada and didn't exactly pass customs. It's being held in an impenetrable safe in a security basement with extra CCTV cameras and infrared sensors at the Montréal Customs House. Everything about the job sets alarms off in Nick's head that it's too risky, from the elaborate job to the extra help he has to take on in the form of Jack Teller (Norton), who has all the details of the job from working as a mentally challenged janitor. Jack has all the details, but he's a bit headstrong, and more than a little reckless.
Of course, there are complications of extra security measures and some inconvenient timing and one twist that should be seen coming a mile away—and luckily the characters in the movie are just as prescient as the audience. It's all quite credible—Mythbusters even gave a thumbs up to the safe-cracking method—and Oz stages it elaborately, but in the end, it's just another heist movie with complications.
One can say that The Score is also notable as having three generations of the top "Method" actors—Brando, DeNiro and Norton—all in the same movie together and doing scenes with each other. But if you expect to see sparks fly between
DeNiro and Brando (The Two Don Vito Corleones) the way they did between Pacino and DeNiro in Heat, you're going to very disappointed.  
is completely wasted in the movie as "The Girlfriend," and Norton pulls off one of his "so-good-it's-scary" impersonations, this time as a retarded kid, which borders on the cruel. No, the only sparks are the ones that happened between Brando and director Oz.
Brando didn't like the way he was being directed, so he decided he'd play games calling Oz "Miss Piggy" (of course, Oz played her in "The Muppets") It's just another indication of how far Brando was slipping—a perpetual jokester and lover of comedy, he couldn't even be charitable acknowledging Oz's gifts as a performer. The Score is not a great indicator of anyone's work (except the cinematographer's—Rob Hahn), but it's a shame that Brando went out on this one.

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