Robert De Niro
2 Hrs., 4 Mins.
The Score November 29, 2018
he Score (2001) is a prototypical one-last-job sort of heist thriller. But different about the movie is its intimated dedication to overcoming the tired narrative trope. You can tell from the quasi-stunt-casting of Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, and Edward Norton. It insinuates that, yes, this might be a one-last-job sort of heist thriller, but because it’s a prestigiously cast one, even the most fatiguing of familiarities will be
rendered set decoration in comparison to the Great Acting. But big-name recognition, as far as it gets the film in some cases, cannot freshen-up the aforementioned narrative platitude, which was boring before it’d even entered the movie-cliché lexicon.
In The Score, De Niro, tight-lipped and solemn, stars as Nick, an expert safe-cracker. It is evident, almost immediately after meeting him, that criminal life has now become offhanded. In addition to showing stunning professional proficiency in the feature’s opening scene, the stresses of his occupational immorality no longer seem to bother him. He runs a jazz club in Montreal, has a flight-attendant girlfriend named Diane (Angela Bassett) who hates what Nick does but knows he’s the best in his field, and appreciates the finer things in life. He abides by the belief that you should never rob where you live — a principle that has helped keep him alive.
Yet while Nick’s commitment to separating work from pleasure has long been firm, dedicating himself to pleasure has become increasingly appealing in his middle age. Shortly after the film opens, he makes it clear that he’s considering retiring. He figures that he’s made a decent-enough living and that there isn’t much of a point getting in with too-confident youngsters who don’t know how to play the game as well as he does. Plus, Diane wants to get married, but refuses to commit herself to her beau if he continues imperiling himself and, more indirectly, her.
But then Nick is called in for a meeting with the crime boss Max (Brando), who is an old friend. Max, paunchy and kitschly dapper, has a job in mind that he thinks could coax Nick out of his retirement plans: pilfer a priceless antique from a Montreal-based customs house. Max has just the second banana Nick could use: a slippery, whip-smart 20-something thief named Jack (Edward Norton), who’s weaseled his way into the building by getting hired as a janitor, veiling himself by acting as if his name were Brian and that he is suffering from a debilitating brain injury.
The job should be relatively painless. Once Jack finishes casing the place, and once a handful of Max’s people finish undermining the institution’s security systems, Nick should be in and out. Nick, unsurprisingly, is eventually intrigued enough to comply. But he remains wary of Jack, who is so braggadocious that a double-cross seems imminent.
The Score seems to be going for a sort of fetching simplicity — it wants to be the kind of movie where it is not the thriller narrative that electrifies the most per se, but the way these egos clash and sometimes meld. There are supporting characters, like the underwritten but wonderfully performed one played by Bassett, but all is really about this triumvirate.
The actors are individually good, but their relationships, as written by screenwriting quadrant Daniel E. Taylor, Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs, and Scott Marshall Smith, are not invested-in enough to be as richly compelling as I’m wont to believe they were intended to be. In effect does the feature become well-acted, well-made genre fodder, overarchingly competent but not competent enough to realize that its probable intentions are not so flagrant as to overcome the limitations of this kind of story. It’s effective, but one can’t help but feel like it could have been more than that. C+