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The Score

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Review by Aaron Beierle | posted July 25, 2001 | E-mail the Author
The Movie:

Occasionally, a movie comes out in the Summer that doesn't focus on special effects and instead, turns the spotlight on several excellent actors. "The Score" is one of those movies - it has one of the most impressive casts in recent memory - Robert Deniro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett and Marlon Brando - yet, it's dissapointing to watch these actors put to use in the service of such a mediocre screenplay. Watching the film, I believe that one member of the cast signed on, then the rest fell into place when they saw who they were working with, but no one bothered to see if the film was actually telling a story that hasn't been told time and time again.

Deniro stars as Nick Wells, an expert thief who, like many in his business in this genre of film, are looking for "one last job" before retiring. After a fairly sizable payoff, he drops in to his fence Max (Marlon Brando) who informs him of one last gig - the gig to end all gigs, in other words. He's to be paired up with a man on the inside named Jack (Edward Norton) and the two are to break into the highly guarded Customs building in Montreal, forcing Nick to break one of his own rules - never perform a robbery in your own hometown. After he's been assured that Jack has taken on the disguise of a mentally challenged guard and has access to the entire place, he decides to go through with it. After it's all over he can retire to some far off place his girlfriend (Bassett, whose part feels trimmed down).

And so it goes. The film's opening 90 minutes is all set-up with the two planning how to best get into the place as well as trying to purchase the security codes to shut down the cameras. This is where a director other than Frank Oz ("Bowfinger", the "Muppet" movies) could have maybe been more successful. Oz lets pacing fall flat during many of these sequences, which resist any sort of flash (and often any sort of energy, for that matter). Although I respect the director for wanting to make a more mild-mannered thriller without all the car chases or gunplay, at least give us some sort of sense of doom or gloom. This is what Bryan Singer did so wonderfully with "The Usual Suspects", a terrific crime thriller from 1995 that still remains one of my favorite films. The movie, with its luxurious production design (thanks to Jackson DiGovia, who can currently be heard discussing his work on "Die Hard" in that movie's new special edition DVD) and low-key acting from Deniro often seems to be going in slow-motion. There's little true sense of danger and little character development - I didn't feel involved in anything up until the heist itself. Several unnecessary sequences from the opening half could easily have been dropped for the movie to at least pick up the pace.

The other problem here, and it's one that really makes the opening 90-95 minutes suffer, is that the majority of the audience who's seen the trailer knows what's going to happen towards the end when they sit in their theater seat. Even audience members who haven't seen the trailer will predict the movie's "twist" from a mile away. Once Oz actually starts the heist itself, all of the planning that's been done for the past 95 minutes or so of the movie makes the audience even more assured that little is going to go wrong with the job. Although there are a few snags along the way, Oz mines the tension at a suprisingly infrequent rate. And, by the end of 125 minutes, I doubt if there wasn't anything that I couldn't see coming minutes before. Although the dialogue (by 4 credited writers, including "The Limey"'s Lem Dobbs) isn't too bad, the plot itself simply throws a group of heist movie cliches in a blender. Such an amazing cast certainly deserves more than such a by-the-numbers plot.

All that's left are a few moments of energy from a very good Norton performance and a few amusing appearances from Brando. Deniro walks through it all, while Bassett is completely underused. It's certainly not terrible, but with the talent involved, "The Score" is a remarkably uninspired miss.

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