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Three generations of acting talent come together for this thinking man’s heist flick, with each of the three leading males bringing something different to the story. They also represent performers in very distinct stages of their careers. You’ve got Marlon Brando, a full-blown star who is now well past is best and heading for the end of the acting road, Robert De Niro who puts only a slightly different spin on each of his characters but is still somewhere near his best, and Edward Norton who has now stamped himself as one of the most talented young men going around, if he hasn’t already. But will they come together to bring out the best of this film? Read on.

Movie
Nick (De Niro) is a veteran thief masquerading as a jazz club owner. The love of his life is putting pressure on him to “retire” from crime and settle down to lead a normal life. But Nick and his pal Max (Brando) have other plans. Max wants to hire Nick to mastermind the theft of a priceless sceptre from inside the Montreal customs house. With a young and eager crook named Jack (Norton) on the inside they have all the information they need to pull off a daring but apparently possible crime. But Nick has several demons to wrestle; the pull of his girlfriend Diane (Angela Bassett) is becoming much greater, he vowed never to do a deal in his own backyard and also never to team up with a partner. All the signs point to failure but the lure of millions of dollars cash and the chance to live hassle-free is far too great.

Planning the crime is high on Nick’s agenda. He is insistent on knowing every tiny detail about the workings of customs house and the kinds of security measures they need to circumvent. Thankfully Jack has used his talent as a budding thief to good effect, posing as a mentally disabled young man named Brian who works the graveyard shift at Customs as a janitor. There he gains access to plans, keys and all the know-how so that lifting the sceptre from its secure home should be relatively easy. But as always things aren’t quite as smooth sailing as they would have hoped, with increased security around the safe in the basement proving to be more than just a little speed hump on the road to the perfect heist. Bring on some more planning, which is basically where the movie is let down.

Score, The
It is no secret that the pacing of the film during the first half hour is painfully slow. By Director Frank Oz’s own admission he wanted the film to be primarily a characters study rather than an out-and-out heist flick. This makes the narrative suffer, with several scenes involving Nick and Diane as well as some long scenes with Nick and Max paying far too much attention to developing the characters rather than placing them in interesting situations. And Oz was dealt an even crueller blow by Marlon Brando, who seemed to be just going through the motions and reciting his lines while terribly out of breath throughout the whole film. The rumours about Brando chastising the director and causing problems with the production seem to be true. I hate to tell you this, Marlon, but you’re way past your best and a long way from being able to dictate direction to the man at the helm. Thankfully De Niro and Norton don’t disappoint, with Norton commanding attention in a way only he knows how.

There are some very good moments in the story, most notably the lengthy heist sequence. Oz uses the slow pace from the first half to slow the action down and create an unbelievable amount of tension. Jack must shake off his minder and bypass the security, Nick must quickly use his tools to break into the safe and the both of them must get out of there before the security people realise what’s going on. This is tense stuff, with some seriously gripping moments of action during the penultimate scene. Even though the rest of the movie kind of plods along for the majority there are some notable highlights. Jamie Harrold gives a good performance in what is the best use of a computer nerd since Hackers, while Norton’s Brian is the best use of a disabled person since The Usual Suspects. Both certainly help to raise the bar.

In the days of modern cinema when experimentation and creativity is being rewarded and the crime caper flick is going through somewhat of a resurgence, it comes as a genuine surprise that this film suffers from a terrible anti-climax thanks to a severe dose of laziness. The ending can only be described as feasible but downright disappointing. I won’t spoil it for you but let’s just say this scenario has been dished out a thousand times and could have been thought of in five minutes while sitting on the toilet. With such an interesting safe-breaking sequence one would have thought the finale would have followed suit, but sadly it’s just plain uninspiring. Even though it fits in with the story some calculated risks could have been taken to lift this one up to the predictable.

Score, The
On the whole The Score works without having the panache of a fully blown crime flick. There are notable highlights, but those are offset by some slow pacing in the first half, which threatens to lose the interest of many viewers before the action even begins. Couple that with a laughable performance from Brando and an ending that could have been much more effective had the writers been a little more creative, and you’ve got yourself an above average flick that is just no frills entertainment. Watch it for Norton if nothing else. This boy’s on the up in a big, big way.

Video
The 2.35:1, 16:9 enhanced transfer is quite impressive, handling many difficult scenes quite well. The film is quite dark throughout, with scenes in drains and alleyways among others demanding the most out of the transfer. Thankfully it stands up pretty well, with the blacks remaining consistently deep throughout and the sharpness remaining a touch above average. Colours look quite good but do suffer a little from the darkness of the film, though skin tones are basically spot-on. This one is a pretty challenging picture and Roadshow seem to have done quite a good job at keeping the focus on the film rather than any visual faults. One thing to note is the layer change, which occurs right in the middle of a scene and is quite distracting. I can hear some of the less seasoned DVD buffs asking “What was that?” and looking quite puzzled. Ho hum.

Audio
Included on this disc is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track of reasonable quality. The film is much more dialogue based than many people think so there aren’t going to be as many bangs and crashes bouncing around the rear speakers as some would expect. Nevertheless there are some good instances of surround use, particularly during the theft sequence. Dialogue is always clear, with the soundtrack being quite crisp overall. Those little metal pieces dropping onto the floor was a highlight.

The original score comes up quite well thanks to seasoned veteran Howard Shore. Our pal Howie has built up an impressive list of composing credits, including the brilliant from Lord Of The Rings and Seven, among a whole stack of other notable films. His efforts in this flick are very impressive and do sound particularly good coming out of the speakers, much better than what I heard in the cinema. Good work.

Score, The
Extras
Roadshow have put together a pretty minimal extras package but some are well worth a look or a listen. First up is a commentary track from director Frank Oz and DOP Rob Hahn. This is a very interesting track, particularly when Oz reveals some details about his heated relationship with Marlon Brando. This kind of frank admission (pardon the pun) is quite refreshing and is only heard on rare occasions. John Frankenheimer’s commentary on Reindeer Games springs to mind. Overall a very interesting track to listen to.

Next up is a trio of alternate scenes, the first of which is a quite amusing reel of Brando and De Niro improvising a scene in the jazz club. It’s only funny because Brando is so incredibly bad and seems as puffed out as he was during the whole production. And his performance in this just smacks of how he couldn’t care less how he acted. There is also an alternate scene with Jack and Nick as well as an extended cut of a musical number in the jazz club. Nice to watch even though there’s no new footage included here.

The Making Of Documentary is the usual fare with a large amount of footage from the film as well as interviews with Norton, De Niro, Oz, et al. The most interesting part of this short featurette is Norton describing his take on the role. Once only viewing for this one.

Rounding out the disc is the theatrical trailer that, incidentally, is quite misleading, and some cast/crew biographies. Overall, not the most impressive extras package but the commentary track makes up somewhat for the shortcomings.

Overall
A slightly disappointing film that tries to appeal to the thinking man and delve into the characters a little more than your usual crime drama. Some serious pacing issues and an uninventive ending mar what could have been a solid caper flick. Norton and De Niro help this one out among a couple of other highlights, as do the impressive visuals and solid audio. Not too many extras but certainly enough to satisfy the casual fan. A good nights entertainment that may well turn into a decent purchase.


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