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The Score: Good talent, wrong choices

Updated on May 21, 2016
Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, and Marlon Brando
Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, and Marlon Brando | Source

“Talent means nothing in this game if you don’t make the right choices.” –Nick Wells

Few people, if any, can testify against the talents of Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, or Edward Norton. With roughly 20 years between each, they can very well be the representation of their respective generations. Through their careers, they each have made countless good and excellent choices that would earn them the respect of their peers, the admiration of the audiences, and the acclaim of the Academy with 16 nominations and 4 wins by 2001.


Stanley Kowalski, Terry Malloy, Vito Corleone, Jake LaMotta, Travis Bickle, Aaron Stamper, Derek Vinyard, the Narrator in Fight Club… they’ve all became iconic and defining roles for each of them. With all this background, when it was announced in 2001 that all three actors had been cast as the leads in an upcoming film called The Score, film buffs drooled and went into theaters with high expectations of what seemed like the perfect choices of great talents. But still, most of them walked out of theaters dumbfounded and disappointed at the result.

The Score, directed by Frank Oz, follows Nick Wells (DeNiro), a veteran thief who is about to retire. However, he is lured into one last job by his friend Max (Brando). The reluctant Nick also has to agree to work with Jack Teller (Norton), a young and ambitious thief that has already started scouting for the job. The score involves them getting inside the Montreal Customs House to steal an ancient French scepter. The film then takes them through several twists and turns as they learn to work with each other and prepare the heist.

Nick Wells (De Niro) and Jack Teller (Norton)
Nick Wells (De Niro) and Jack Teller (Norton) | Source

Unfortunately, The Score carries few surprises. Most of the plot is formulaic and generic, and the twists are predictable and cliché. To see the talent of these three actors dragged into a by-the-numbers heist/action film can’t help but feel like a waste of talent. In its defense, the film isn’t inherently bad. But when you have the talents of Brando, De Niro, and Norton on the same film, you just expect to see fireworks. As it is, the only moments of great acting belong to Norton as he impersonates “Brian”, a mentally handicapped character he has used to infiltrate the Customs House as a janitor. His performance reminds us of his debut turn as stuttering Aaron Stamper in the legal thriller Primal Fear, which made him famous.

As for De Niro and Brando, their performances are decent and serviceable, but there is nothing notable in any of them, just like there is little of note in the whole film. As a matter of fact, Brando has a relatively short role, when compared to De Niro and Norton. Angela Bassett rounds out the cast as Nick's girlfriend, Diane. Bassett's performance is brief, but solid.

Edward Norton as Jack Teller
Edward Norton as Jack Teller | Source
The Score
Release date
July 13, 2001
Frank Oz
Scott Marshall Smith, Daniel E. Taylor, Kario Salem
Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando, Angela Bassett
124 minutes
Box office

At one point in the film, Nick advises Jack about his talent and the choices he makes with the quote mentioned above. Ironically, all three actors have made controversial choices late in their careers. Brando semi-retired in the 80’s only to sporadically return to acting in some odd roles like the sci-fi/horror film The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996) or the black comedy Free Money (1998). De Niro has been plagued by box office and critical failures during the last decades, starring in films like Showtime (2002) and Hide and Seek (2005), among others, before ultimately retreating to supporting roles. As for Norton, after several breakthrough roles, he has then been featured in more standard fare like The Italian Job (2003) or The Incredible Hulk (2008).

In all fairness, The Score is not a bad film. It is a decent and solid heist film with serviceable performances. Sadly, it features a predictable plot, a generic direction, and little to no acting flair from its renowned cast. Maybe they should’ve taken notes from Nick’s advice to Jack. It doesn’t matter how talented you are, if you don’t make the right choices. As it is, The Score feels, well, less like a score and more like a misfire. Grade: C+

6.8 /10

The Score Trailer


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