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The Score

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: The Score

Starring: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton
Director: Frank Oz
Rated: R
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: July 2001
Genres: Drama, Suspense


*Also starring: Angela Bassett, Marlon Brando, Andrew Walker, Jamie Harrold, David L. McCallum, Chris Messina



Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Hollywood movies are notorious for ignoring reality. In almost every thriller about greedy people who steal for a living, the crooks get caught in the end. What had always annoyed me at Alfred Hitchcock's TV series was that even if the bad guys seem to have been rewarded for their crimes, Mr. Hitchcock would show his face during the final minute stating, "Mr. X was later apprehended by the police and is now serving a long term in jail." But those who write stories about iniquity today are aware that in many cases, the audience wants nothing more than for the cops to be shown up as fools and for the bandits to make a clean getaway. What types of stories are they? I'd say they are those in which the brigand is charming, does not hurt anybody, and has a beautiful woman waiting for him as he sails away with the loot. It wouldn't hurt if the heroic villain got dragged reluctantly into the scam. What if three people planned and executed a job...is it possible that we in the audience would make distinctions and want, oh, one or two guys to make off with the jewels while the other guy is left stranded? "The Score" is just that kind of caper movie, quite an intriguing one at that because the usually obligatory car chases, shoot-outs and explosions are shunned. Director Frank Oz--who must be a likable enough fellow no matter what Marlon Brando thinks of him--lets us spend most of our time scrutinizing the planning of a heist so that we knew just what goes on in the minds of the truly professional swindlers--not those who rip off people on a dare or on the spur of the moment but who carefully scheme, weigh the odds, make demands on one another.

Like Jules Dassin's classic caper movie "Rififi" on which Mr. Oz seems to borrow, the dialogue is kept to a minimum, though unlike the predecessor there is no a long period characterized by a complete absence of talk. The action centers principally on the relationship between two pros, though the younger one is by nature of his hormones more excitable than the calmer middle- aged swindler. Robert De Niro and Edward Norton star as Nick Wells and Jack respectively, the former as the owner of a well- appointed jazz club in Montreal's Vieux Carre, the latter as assistant janitor on the graveyard shift in the heretofore impenetrable Montreal Customs House. Norton, among the finest actors of his generation, turns rain man, acting the role of a mentally challenged man named Brian with all the tics and postures of a decent guy whose elevator doesn't get near the top floor. The two are brought together by Nick's longtime pal, Max (Marlon Brando), a reliable guy who believes in the slogan that there is honesty among thieves and convinces Nick to participate in one more job. Though Nick had sworn off dishonest labors, he cannot resist six million bucks, his share of the undertaking, notwithstanding the demand of his girl friend Diane (Angela Bassett) that he walk a straight line or she's walking out.

Because the major portion of Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs and Scott Marshall Smith's clever script (which at times can rival David Mamet's), rests on the blueprint for the robbery, the action that takes place at the conclusion is all the more delightful. This is not to say that we're cooling our heels in our theater seats waiting for a breakout: the details are what involve us. We watch three top stars, each representing a different generation of actors, contribute their styles to the grand design: we see how the interplay of these characters shapes the absorbing story. Isn't this what movies about jewel thieves should be like rather than the same ol' formulaic tripe that has the audience a half hour ahead of the performers?

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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