Picks and Pans Review: The Score
Acting firepower doesn't come mightier than this: Brando, 77, De Niro, 57, and Norton, 31, sharing the same screen, each arguably the single most talented actor of his generation. So what if the movie they have chosen for their act-off is a minor heist drama? These three provide a heft that, for the two hours one is parked in a theater, makes director Frank Oz's The Score pleasurable and involving. It is only afterward that the film's utter lack of substance begins to gnaw.
De Niro plays Nick, an expert jewel thief who also happens to run a jazz club in Montreal. He has eluded the law for his entire career by sticking to three rules: Avoid excessive risk, always work alone, and never pull a job in the town where you live. He is tempted to put aside those maxims when Max (Brando), a longtime underworld crony, offers him $4 million to steal a jewel-encrusted 17th-century scepter from the Montreal Customs House. Nick agrees to the job, promising his flight-attendant girlfriend (Bassett, effective in her few scenes) that it'll be his last. But he soon develops doubts both about the job and the ambitious young accomplice (Norton) with whom Max has teamed him.
The scenes between De Niro and Brando crackle, offering a fascinating clash of acting styles. (This is their first time onscreen together; they shared the role of Vito Corleone, with Brando in 1972's The Godfather and De Niro in 1974's The Godfather: Part II.) Brando gives almost too much, fiddling with props and batting his eyes like a flirtatious old dame, while De Niro keeps his own flame low but white-hot. The two feed off each other, though, and their last scene together, in which each man sees the other at his most vulnerable, is one for the career-highlights reel. Norton, whose character fakes being simpleminded at times, has the flashiest role, but smartly steps aside when the two older vets strut their stuff. (R)
Bottom Line: All-star cast scores high