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The Score

Starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett and Marlon Brando
Screenplay by Kario Salem and Lem Dobbs and Scott Marshall Smith; story by Daniel E. Taylor and Kario Salem
Directed by Frank Oz

IN SHORT: Really good heist flick. Good twists and a great cast. [Rated R for language. 123 minutes]

It was just a matter of time before director Frank Oz (as opposed to actor/ muppeteer Frank Oz; same guy) turned his talents from comedy movies to something serious, like the burglary thriller The Score. He does it in grand style, teaming three of the best actors of their (individual) generations in one big heist of a story. Granted, there are three kinds of heist stories: there are those that are so complicated that they don't make any sense. There are those that are so complicated that pulling them off yields a Mission: Impossible kind of thrill when they come off flawlessly. Then there is a movie like The Score which, like the bowl of porridge in the story of the Three Bears, is just right.

From our honesty is the best policy department... we saw The Score as the sixth in a run of seven movies seen in a period of two and a half days. That's not the best way to do this gig but in the summertime, as at the end of the year, we aren't given a heck of a lot of choice in the matter. In this particular case, the first five in a row were stinkers and we did manage an hour's nap before seeing The Score. With a day's pause, we don't think we're overestimating the quality of the flick in comparison to the first five, nor do we think we're underestimating it. Like the porridge, it's just right by any standard.

At minimum, we get to see Marlon Brando breezing through a good screen role as if he'd never decided to spend most of his time in semi-retirement on his island out by Tahiti. At not even close to maximum, we get more screen time with Brando and Robert De Niro together than we did the last time De Niro got stuck with a heavily hyped disappointment of a teamup (that one scene with Al Pacino in Heat). At maximum, we get Brando and De Niro and new kid on the block Edward Norton at the same time. Just right.

Like all good safecrackers, Nick Wells (De Niro) works alone, at night, in black. His tools are the basic drill and saws and magnifying lenses, with just enough high tech gadgets to keep everything "honest" <vbg> 'cuz we do expect M:I tech from our safecrackers. For the last twenty five years he's used Max (Brando) as his fence and "investment advisor" but at this point in his life he's finally got a major distraction. Her name is Diane (Angela Bassett), a flight attendant who knows that her beau has some shady dealings aside from the jazz club he owns and operates in Montreal Canada. Nick wants to settle down. Angela wants him totally legit and retired. That would be fine by Nick except for two problems, both involving a new acquaintance of Max' named Jack Teller (Norton) who needs help to pull off the sweetest deal he's ever stumbled across in his short career. It's sweet because it involves ripping off an object hidden inside another (ie. no one new it was there) It is a priceless artifact -- a jewel encrusted, golden scepter created for the Throne of France in the Sixteenth Century. The script is a simple, inside job and has more than enough tension to keep you happily planted in your seat.

But we have real actors in this movie so we get background conflicts in addition to all the tension of a standard "will they or won't they get caught" routine. One character is in so deep to the mob he fears for his life. One wants out. One wants it all. One wants way more than that and, as always, there is no honor among thieves. Or television commercials, which we hope you haven't seen 'cuz at least one of 'em gives away more than it should and far more than we ever would.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Score, he would have paid . . .


dateflick for the grownups. Just right.

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