The Score

The Score

Tense nail-biter about a professional thief (Robert De Niro) who agrees to take on the proverbial "last job", even though it breaks his rules - partnering up with a stranger (Edward Norton, impressive as usual) and working in his home town (Montreal, a refreshing locale, well-used). But the money - a cool $6 million - is too good to pass up, especially since it means he can pay off his fancy home and his treasured jazz club, and retire with his flight attendant girlfriend (Angela Basset, who has maybe two or three scenes).

Marlon Brando plays the "mastermind" behind this so-called score, which involves the theft of a prized French scepter from an impossible-to-crack safe under heavy security in the bowels of a government building. He's very fat, very foul-mouthed, and - most interestingly - rather pathetic. When you see Brando, you expect a towering, Godfather-like figure, so it's a treat to see him play his character as, well, a fat loser.

But the film is all about the heist, and former Muppet Frank Oz proves himself surprisingly adept at keeping his plot suspenseful: The Score feels like a modern Rififi. (I heard a story that the ever-difficult Brando disliked Oz so much that he told the director, "I bet you wish I was a puppet, so you could stick your hand up my ass and make me do what you want.") I have some gripes about the ending, which has a nice twist but comes across as a bit flippant. But not every film has to be deep - this one is exciting and entertaining, with strong performances, crisp dialogue, and confident direction, and in this case that's enough.