Score, The

Rated: R
Stars:   Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Angela Bassett
Director:   Frank Oz
Writers:    Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs, Scott Marshall Smith – from a story by Daniel E. Taylor & Kario Salem

You’d think a movie with three powerhouse actors such as Robert De Niro, Edward Norton and Marlon Brando would be a can’t miss blockbuster drama, but while this is a well-done thriller, it’s far from the type of movie to which these guys should be lending their names. We want more from De Niro these days; as for Brando, I’d rather remember him the way he was rather than the huge, heavy breathing caricature he’s become. Edward Norton is terrific as the weasel who poses as a mentally impaired man for much of the film but when he plays against the other two actors you can’t help but wonder what a good dramatic story might do for them all.

With that said, let me add that I did like the film for what it was – an unhurried but taut heist movie with a respectable script.

De Niro plays Nick, a methodical safecracker who’s been able to stay in business all these years because he’s smart, doesn’t take risks and doesn’t do jobs in his hometown, which in this case happens to be Montreal where he also runs a legit and classy Jazz club. But, now wanting to get out of the burglary business for good, Nick decides to take on a dangerous assignment for a cool $6-million. He’s egged on by his fence Max (Brando), who’s desperate for some hotter action after his last buyer bit the dust and left him holding the goods. Why Brando as Max? No reason other than his name. The problem is you sit there, with his every scene, wondering what happened to that fine, good looking actor of yesteryear. Sitting in Brando’s place is a ham, nothing more. Anybody could have played the smallish part and even done it better.

Entering the scheme is Jack (Norton) serving as the inside man at Montreal’s Customs House, which is the Fort Knox of museum quality goods where he’s discovered a priceless French scepter that everyone else knows nothing about. Max apparently has cut a deal with Jack contingent on getting Nick to agree to pull off the heist. After some convincing, Nick sets the grounds rules and as long as he’s in control, the scheme’s a go.

Jack falls easily into his role as Brian, the Customs House assistant janitor, and he continues gathering specs on the building and the security system for Nick. As you might expect in a film of this nature, things start falling apart fast and all they can do is try to stay one step ahead of the game.

Nick marks time with his airline stewardess girlfriend, Diane, played nicely by Angela Bassett in a very spare role.

Lotta says The Score  scores with a good story, believable characters and good acting from De Niro and Norton. I guess you really can’t say anything too bad about Brando as long as you don’t think you ever saw him before.

Reviewed 7/13/01