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SCORE, THE

SYNOPSIS:
With plans to retire from crime and settle down with his girl, Diane (Angela Bassett), expert safecracker Nick Wells (Robert De Niro) looks forward to running his legit Montreal jazz club. Until his longtime fence and friend, Max (Marlon Brando) persuades him to take on the biggest heist of his life. What’s more, he teams him up with a promising young thief, Jackie Teller (Edward Norton), who has the job—Montreal’s Customs House with a fabulous treasure in the basement—well cased. Jackie has landed work at the building, posing as Brian, a mentally handicapped janitor and has gained access to the security systems. What could possibly go wrong?

Review by Louise Keller:
A ripper of a heist movie, The Score is a satisfying thriller noir filled with a clever set up, juicy anticipation and a delectable pay off. It’s a new string in the bow of director and former Muppet man, Frank Oz, whose multi talents have brought us comedies like Bowfinger. In many ways an old-fashioned film with little violence and no special effects, the delights come from marvellously crafted characters played by three big acting guns whose talents range over three generations. The characters, like the actors are at different stages of their life. De Niro’s Nick Wells is the true professional at the top of his game. He needs this one last job desperately, so he can walk away and get a life. But we share his doubts and worries—after all, his motto has always been not to steal in his hometown, plus he is lumbered with a wild card partner, who makes questionable choices. Edward Norton’s Jackie is of the new generation. He is hungry, cocky and exemplifies all the arrogance of youth. Jackie doesn’t play it safe; he thrives on risk-taking. At first, I worried that his brain-damaged Brian would be come an actor’s showpiece. But I need not have been concerned: Norton judges the character well. Marlon Brando is the big daddy (in stature and girth), slightly effeminate, who shuns the daylight and manipulates Nick and Jackie like pawns in an underground chess game. What a scene stealer Brando is, as he purrs lines like “You look like shit, what's your secret?” to De Niro. At the bar, or at the sauna, it’s an absolute joy watching the scenes between the two—each glance and gesture is indicative of a multitude of nuances. Brando makes a simple smile extraordinary. De Niro has oiled his craft well over the years; he is very comfortable in the skin of this jazz club owner set in beautiful Montreal. It’s a great setting, combining New York slickness with the cobbles and charm of the French. There are plenty of treats—from the classy production design, irresistible jazzy soundtrack, and we are even privy to live performances from jazz greats Mose Allison and Cassandra Wilson. I could hear my own heartbeat for much of the film; it scores very well indeed.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
It begins, and you are hooked. Close ups of faces, places, an expert at work on a heist. Never fails—especially if the heist expert is played by De Niro, the director is Frank Oz and the cinematographer is Rob Hahn, whose work experience in the camera department includes films like The French Connection, Batman Returns and his debut as DoP with Oz on In & Out. As the synopsis shows, the premise of the film is not novel, but the execution is thrilling, aided by a premier cast. Marlon Brando delivers a rich and engaging character, which goes a long way to give the film resonance, while Edward Norton again proves his range and his intelligence, not to mention his edge. Here is older Hollywood (Brando), mid-term Hollywood (De Niro) and new Hollywood (Norton) star talent lined up in a single, high-octane movie. Some films claim to have the right elements but fizzle in delivery: here is a genuine case. It’s a straight-forward caper thriller, made with verve and given a terrific score to jazz it along. Don’t hesitate to see it.

Review by Richard Kuipers:
With hardly an explosion or gunshot in sight this old-fashioned heist pic showcases three great actors in a juicy plot to pull off the impossible. Brando, De Niro and Norton are excellent in roles that reflect their own life and career status. Brando, a whale of a man now and a legend, is spot-on as the brains of the operation—a gentlemanly old-timer in a white suit who’s done it all and gets his thrills through the work he plans for guys like Jimmy. De Niro: the veteran still at the top of his game with nothing left to prove other than his ability to pull off one last job that will ensure his legend and his future security. Norton: the brilliant upstart with some flashy moves who wants to impress his elders as much as he wants the loot. It’s the interplay of these three personalities that makes The Score absorbing entertainment. Only the girlfriend character played by Angela Bassett fails to measure up. Diane’s huffing and puffing about Jimmy quitting and making an honest woman of her is lazily written and too obvious, bogging proceedings down. The heist itself is deliciously imagined and executed, with long sequences where little dialogue is spoken holding our attention with their cleverness and precision. There are many details to keep track of as the job gets underway—the whereabouts of janitors, last-minute security code changes, camera placements, etc—all of which adds to the suspense while we watch De Niro penetrating the apparently impregnable fortress. The Score is something of a surprise from director Frank Oz, who has worked mostly in comedy—Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Bowfinger come to mind—but shows he knows a thing or two about crime capers with this intelligent, intricately plotted and professionally executed heist movie.

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed:

SCORE, THE (M)
(US)

CAST: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Angela Bassett, Gary Farmer

DIRECTOR: Frank Oz

PRODUCER: Gary Foster, Lee Rich

SCRIPT: Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs, Scott Marshall Smith

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Rob Hahn

EDITOR: Richard Pearson

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jackson De Govia

MUSIC: Howard Shore

RUNNING TIME: 124 minutes

RATING: M

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 29, 2001

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow Entertainment

VIDEO RELEASE: April 17, 2002







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