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"The Score"

Directed by Frank Oz.
Written by Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs and Scott Marshall Smith.
Starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett and Marlon Brando.
Release Year:  2001 
Review Date:  7/15/01 


Has Robert De Niro been in too *many* movies?

I went to check out "The Score" yesterday since my dad was settling into a "dad nap" (the art of turning on The Golf Channel and falling asleep in front of the television), so I blew out of the house and took in De Niro's latest film.  The movie follows Nick (De Niro), a veteran burglar that decides to take one last job from his middleman Max (Marlon Brando) that will net him a $4 million score and earn him enough money to finally retire from the game.  Nick's partner in the deal is up-and-comer Jack (Edward Norton), who has scoped out the big score and needs a safecracker of Nick's expertise in order to steal a priceless scepter.

The movie is by-the-numbers and--much like the creatively-named (hehehe) Max, Nick and Jack--is very familiar to anyone who has seen a heist film in the past.  For 90 of its 124 minutes, the movie is slow as molasses--a real film critic might say it was "plodding", but I am not a real film critic--and by the time the actual heist takes place, many people in my audience had to wake themselves up.  I kept waiting for something exciting to happen--maybe a car chase or a shootout; this IS a crime film--but, the best thing we get is a sequence where Max and Nick are trying to get access codes to the building's security system from a disgruntled employee.  It is well-acted and it seems like a real safecracker would have a lot to enjoy here, but when Max and Nick got technical, I got horizontal.  Snore.

The last half-hour is pretty exciting, even if its ending was a little predictable to me given how movies work these days.  You have to see it to know what I mean.

But, the problem I had with the movie--and, its admittedly impressive pedigree of actors--was two-fold.  First, the beautiful and talented Angela Bassett (a former Oscar nominee for her Tina Turner performance in "What's Love Got to Do with It") is almost completed wasted in "The Score."  Maybe she just wanted to hook up with De Niro, but she has gotten so many better, smarter roles that I was left wondering why she wanted to appear here.

The second problem is De Niro.  And, this is probably just me, but hear me out.  Has De Niro played this role 600 times before?  As the smart, cagey veteran, he has played similar roles in many of his recent films:  "15 Minutes", "Ronin", "Heat", his brief scenes in "Cop Land."  And, in "The Score", De Niro almost looks bored playing this role.  His scenes with Bassett and Brando seem to be laden with looks of "Marlon, hurry up and read the lines so that I can go set up my next Scorsese film."  Part of that is his character...but, part of that seems to be the real De Niro.  And, many scenes in "The Score" are set against his character's absolutely emotionless persona.  (Even his scene with Norton at the jazz club--where he tries to tell Norton's character how to succeed in "the game"--seems lifted right out of "Heat.")  Since the film's plot is already pretty boring, I was hoping for more interaction between Norton (brilliant in this movie, playing the cocky guy and a retarded building janitor, his alter ego in the film) and De Niro...but, their scenes together are usually not confrontational, save for a couple of scenes during the heist.

I like De Niro in movies where he is either crazy or angry constantly--"Raging Bull", "Taxi Driver", "The Untouchables", his hilarious role in "Jackie Brown", and his performance in "Cape Fear."  He has played against his stereotype well in "Meet the Parents" and "Analyze This" lately.  But, when he plays quiet or unassuming characters, he is just boring, and that works okay when he plays the straight man to someone like Joe Pesci in "Casino."  In "The Score", it just brings down the already-snooze-heavy plot early on.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09