That Brando style
With a cast featuring Brando, De Niro and Edward Norton, The Score could be classified as a movie event. It could also be classified as a movie event that doesn’t set your pants ablaze and settles for mildly warming your entertainment heart.
The thought of a heist flick fills me with dread because of the negative, lasting ramifications of that Sean Connery drudge through Hades, Entrapment. So it comes as a relief to discover that, while it’s not great, The Score is a well-above-average heist flick.
Is it a classic? No. Does it feature a script entirely worthy of some of screendom’s finest actors? No. Does Marlon Brando look like he’s about to trap one of his co-stars in his baggy clothes and consume them whole? Regrettably, I must report that the last question deserves a “yes” fatter than Brando’s ankles.
While the movie is overflowing with legendary presence, it is Norton who leaves the biggest impression. He plays a career thief, reminiscent of his card shark character from Rounders, and the role affords him the chance to show off.
When casing a potential score in Montreal, Norton’s character takes on the persona of Brian, a made-up, mentally challenged janitor. Brian works the night shift at a customs warehouse and is able to learn all of the facilities security secrets so that a professional safe cracker can go in and get his hands on some valuables. This is where De Niro comes in.
De Niro plays Nick, a jazz club owner who robs safes on the side. He’s in partnership with Max the crime lord (Brando), and they both need to make “one more big score” before retiring. De Niro holds out at first, because the job is too risky, but when Brando threatens to eat his foot, he relents. (Dammit … I can’t resist.)
The actual “score” is a nicely handled piece of filmmaking. It unfolds in what seems to be authentic fashion, as if the filmmakers drank many a latte with safe-cracking whackos and got their routine just right for the silver screen. The final sequence is as tense as the hanging-from-the-ceiling break-in from Mission: Impossible, just not as sexy. (Hey, you can’t beat Tom Cruise for sheer, unbridled machismo!)
Former Muppeteer-turned-director Frank Oz—who endured on-set taunting by Brando, who took to calling him Miss Piggy (true!)—does a decent job with his first non-comedic film. The pacing is good, and the performances are solid, for the most part. The Score falters a bit with the character portrayed by Angela Bassett. She’s De Niro’s love interest, waiting in the wings for her man to conclude his life of crime and cook her some eggs. Bassett’s a good actress and deserving of a better showcase.
De Niro is in quiet mode here, and he does quiet as good as any actor. Brando is nothing but a bizarre curio at this point, muttering lines being fed to him through an earpiece. For extracurricular movie fun, count how many moments you can spot the little piece of machinery in his right ear. I counted 425 times, but I was cheating.
As previously stated, Norton is the scene-stealer, and there’s a nice charge in seeing him on screen with De Niro and Jabba the Hutt. (If he can call Frank Oz Miss Piggy, I consider Brando fair game for potshots.)
Seeing the three actors together and the film’s final sequence are reasons enough to recommend the movie. The Score is probably the only time they will share the screen, because this type of grouping is such a rarity, and Marlon is due to explode anytime now—in a style that is undeniably, indisputably Brando!