The Score

Two Don Corleones team up for a movie, and what is it? A stupid heist flick. Jeez!

Any movie that opens with a jumbo-size Marlon Brando — sausaged into a white suit, yet — mincing into a Montreal jazz club spouting French ("Bonjour") and looking for a thief named Nick, who happens to be played by Robert De Niro, scores points. That's just for bringing together the two legends who played the older and younger versions of Vito Corleone in the Godfather films. Add Edward Norton as the new kid on the crook block and you're set for the kind of movie that makes people say, "I'd pay to see these guys just read from the phone book."

Sadly, any phone book would offer more jolts than this substandard caper flick. Brando plays Max, a fence who wants to interest his safe-cracking pal Nick in a big job. All Nick needs to do is steal a gold scepter from the customs house in Montreal, where Jackie (Norton) is posing as a retarded janitor to infiltrate the security system. Nick doesn't like the idea or brash Jackie. Montreal is his home; you don't steal in your own back yard. Besides, he wants to retire, run his jazz club full time and settle down with his flight-attendant love, Diane (an underused Angela Bassett). But wouldn't you know it, Nick gets pulled back in.

Director Frank Oz, best known for comedies such as In and Out and Bowfinger, is less adept at building tension. There's more suspense in watching Brando, who has trouble with physical exertion, get on and off a bar stool than the robbery itself. Still, Brando — his eyes alive with mischief — is the life of the movie. De Niro, looking glum, doesn't rise to the challenge, leaving Norton to overcompensate with his jittery Rain Man act. There's nothing you can't see coming in this flick, including the surprise ending. Quick, somebody get a phone book.

From The Archives Issue 874: August 2, 2001
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