Director Frank Oz must have pinched himself when the Dream Team of Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Edward Norton signed up to perform in his heist movie The Score. Later, he may have kicked himself, for Brando turned out to be a handful (surprise), and De Niro's never been known as easy to work with. Alas, these two great American actors ' Vito Corleone the Elder and Vito Corleone the Younger ' seem to be coasting through the movie, which casts them as thieves who've worked together for 25 years. Of course, Brando and De Niro on autopilot are like most actors working at full throttle. Brando, in particular, gets off some nice line readings. And De Niro can appear to be idling right up until the moment when he leaves you in the dust. If only Oz, who's directed mostly comedies before this, had let his own engine rev a little bit. The Score is about a safecracker who doesn't like to take risks. And, apparently, that philosophy rubbed off on the director. The movie's clean, methodical and a little dull.
DeNiro's Nick has a rule: Don't piss in your own pool. In other words, don't steal from the town you call home, which in Nick's case happens to be Montreal. But he could use one last big score before retiring, and there's a royal scepter over in the Montreal Customs House that could set him up for life. I had to laugh when the customs house ' a huge pile of stone plopped down in the middle of the city ' got described as 'the most secure room in eastern Canada.' Okay, so it's not Fort Knox, but this is just one more example of the filmmakers neglecting, or refusing, to up the ante. There's pleasure in watching Nick and Norton's Jack (a young hotshot who's wormed his way into the custom house by posing as a janitor with cerebral palsy) plan and execute the job. And the script has a surprise or two in store for us. But this doesn't make up for the slackness in Oz's direction. Or for the fact that Brando, who looks magnificently ratty in his kimono and cravat, disappears during the movie's second half.
Perhaps he was back in his trailer, refilling his whoopie cushion. Entertainment Weekly reported that he planted one on De Niro's chair right before the three actors were to shoot their first scene together. 'A grammar school prank,' the magazine called this alleged ice-breaker. Whatever it was, The Score could have used more high jinks like this. Crime doesn't pay, but it's supposed to be fun.