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[whitespace] 'The Score'
Stick 'Em Up: Max (Marlon Brando, presumably pantsless) cajoles Nick (Robert De Niro) into one last robbery--perhaps by threatening never to wear pants again unless Nick goes through with it.

Stickup in The Mud

Heist film had more interesting plot twists happening offscreen

By Jim Aquino

AS A HEIST MOVIE, Frank Oz's The Score is adequate, but as a historic meeting of the minds of Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando--the two Don Vito Corleones--it's an underwritten disappointment. The scenes between De Niro and Brando, who play longtime partners in crime, lack the sparks that De Niro and Al Pacino brought to their now classic diner scene in Michael Mann's Heat.

Maybe what The Score needed to be more than just an adequate caper was the hand of someone like Mann, who has made one-last-score-and-then-I'm-out heist flicks with much more urgency and character insight. (And don't forget technical expertise: remember that otherworldly thermal lance James Caan and his crew constructed to cut through a safe in Thief?) But Mann seems to be moving beyond that genre, perhaps because he's bored with it. In their scenes together, De Niro and Brando look bored with the material too.

De Niro plays world-weary career thief Nick, who wants to throw in the towel to settle down with his fiancée (Angela Bassett, overqualified in a stock girlfriend role) and concentrate on expanding the swank Montreal jazz club that he owns. But Nick has to abandon his retirement plans when he agrees to one final score for his employer, the seedy, desperate Max (Brando): he must steal a prized, centuries-old scepter stored in a Montreal customs house. Max forces Nick, who usually works alone, to team up with Jackie (Edward Norton, also overqualified, but at least he seems to be enjoying himself), a younger safecracker who's posing as a retarded janitor at the customs house to keep an eye on the scepter.

Jackie's unorthodox methods irk Nick. For instance, Nick doesn't use guns, like George Clooney's gentlemanly thief Jack Foley in Out of Sight, whereas the gung-ho Jackie always arms himself (Nick's nonviolent approach to robbery is glimpsed in an opening heist sequence that was executed with more ingenuity and wit in Out of Sight).

The infamous behind-the-scenes squabbling between Brando and Oz is more intriguing than the movie itself. After Oz wouldn't allow Brando to make his effeminate gangster character more queeny, the actor reportedly told the Muppeteer-turned-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." Brando also reportedly terrified the cast and crew by shooting several of his scenes naked from the waist down so that the camera wouldn't catch his girth. If the nonheist scenes in The Score start to feel tedious, maybe a game of "Spot the Scene Where Brando Must Have Been Pantsless" will spruce things up.

The Score (R; 123 min.), directed by Frank Oz, written by Daniel E. Taylor, Kario Salem, Kario Salem, Lem Dobbs and Scott Marshall Smith, photographed by Rob Hahn and starring Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando, Edward Norton and Angela Bassett, plays at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the July 19-25, 2001 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2001 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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