The safest bet for a good movie this summer has to be The Score.
Starring three of the most capable actors to ever grace Hollywood--Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro (the next Marlon Brando), and Edward Norton (the next Robert DeNiro)--it has to, in the very least, feature good acting. Not surprisingly, it does. The Score is the best showcase of acting skills in recent memory, though not the most compelling story.
The plot itself is nothing new. DeNiro plays master thief and jazz club owner Nick Wells, who is quite content to simply became the latter, and settle down with his girlfriend, a stewardess named Diane (Angela Bassett). He's put in 25 years as a thief, and is ready to retire. However, his long-time fence, Max (Brando) has the ultimate challenge--with massive rewards.
A valuable sceptre lies confiscated in the basement of the Montreal Customs House, the most secure building in Eastern Canada. However, Nick refuses the offer because the risks are too big, because he's happy with his club and Diane, and because this job will require him to work with Jack (Norton), someone he doesn't know or trust.
Nick is not a desperate man; he is unwilling to take the same risks as the other two. However, he's also the one with the necessary talent and his participation is key. Nick is eventually won over, because Max needs the money than Nick.
The story is entirely predictable--with the notable exception of Norton's character--but the writing is excellent, and the lack of physical action is a nice change of pace. The only explosion involves massive amounts of water, and the only chase scene shows Jack running, but no one in obvious pursuit. He looks like he's jogging.
The story takes a backseat to the four actors. In fact, aspiring actors should study this film like a textbook. Brando does more with his few moments of screen time than most actors can do in an hour. Norton is captivating as Jack--throughout much of the movie he fakes a mental disability to fool security guards. They believe him, of course, but the audience can't miss the arrogance and amusement on Jack's face as he fools everybody. Bassett's few moments on screen are well used, but sadly infrequent. As Diane, she never asks Nick to stop his thieving ways, in fact, she asks for time to think about whether she wants him to or not. DeNiro's subdued, reserved performance is captivating. He's not flashy, but you can't take your eyes off him.
Strangely, the interaction between the three actors reflects, in a sense, their careers. Marlon Brando appears for only a few minutes of screen time which isn't surprising, as he rarely acts that much anymore. He's older and a bit past his peak, but is still considered one of the best.
Norton is the young rookie, having only hit it big in acting a few years back. He's distinct and noticeable. Definitely talented, but does he have the experience to outdo DeNiro? In The Score, Jack is talented, but doesn't have Nick's 25 years of experience. The same goes for reality. Norton is as talented as DeNiro--so much so in fact, you could picture Norton in Taxi Driver or Deerhunter. He could easily take those roles to the same level as his predecessor. But is he at DeNiro's current level? Give him 25 years, and he probably will be. DeNiro is simply too comfortable acting. He rarely explodes on screen the way he used to, but his presence is impossible to ignore.
The Score may lose points with the masses because of it's simple story and lack of action, but the acting skill alone makes it a winner.