johnlink ranks THE SCORE (2001)

This movie had a fairly large impact on me as a young man. Not in any sort of productive or helpful way, but in the fact that I could do a pretty mean impression of Ed Norton’s alter-ego Brian. I was a less sophisticated person in my youth, and wasn’t above doing the impression at inappropriate times. I suppose that would be on my list of things I’d smack my younger self for doing. Anyway, onto THE SCORE!

I watched THE SCORE (2001) on 9.14.12. It was roughly my fifth viewing of the film, and first in seven or eight years.

This is somewhat of an oddity in the career of Frank Oz. After years of voicing Yoda, Miss Piggy, et al, Oz directed a series of comedies such as DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS, WHAT ABOUT BOB?, IN & OUT, and BOWFINGER. Up to that point, there was nothing on his resume quite like THE SCORE: a serious-minded caper film starring some real heavy-weight actors.

You wouldn’t know from watching this film that Oz was new at this sort of thing. The script pops, taking some tonal cues from Mamet. Nick (Robert DeNiro) is a thief out to do the elusive One Last Job. He unwillingly is stuck with a talented but unpredictable partner, Jack (Norton). Jack has a night-job as a custodian at Montreal’s Customs House, only everyone there thinks that Jack is a special needs charity case named Brian. The person putting the job together is Max (Marlon Brando, in his last role). The job is to steel a valuable antique from the Customs House. Of course, complications repeatedly get added.

The success of the script is partly in the way these complications slowly pile up. Nick is fond of talking about his professionalism; to talk about how easy it is to walk away from the job. Yet we get the idea that this isn’t necessarily the case. He sees the mounting obstacles as challenges he can over come. By the time outside influences make the job truly dangerous, its too late to get out. It could be argued that he wanted to be convinced to stay anyway.

The character of Jack is the most interesting in the film. He’s well written, well directed, and well played. Jack is a young buck in the theft game, and he demands respect. He wants everyone to know just how clever he can be. He isn’t afraid to be seen. In fact he has a moment, towards the end of the film, in which he reveals himself to someone he had gotten close to as “Brian”. He doesn’t have to reveal himself (Nick had shown how this could be done in the film’s opening when a woman walks in on a theft in progress), but Jack can’t help himself. He wants to impress people. The difference between Jack and Nick is revealed in the way they regard their privacy. Nick is in it for the money and the life, Jack is in it to prove he is good.

There is a really nice set of twists at the end of this film. The heist itself is not overly sophisticated or spectacular (or physically plausible), so the burden really is on the characters to carry a two hour movie with limited action. They do so superbly. I wasn’t sure how this would stand up over time, but watching it again puts it on my list of solid heist films. It may be much less a heist film than THE STING or OCEAN’S 11, but it certainly deserves consideration in that upper echelon.





~ by johnlink00 on September 15, 2012.

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