`The Score' is a fun, stylish return to the `Rififi,' `Topkapi' school of crime drama. The object of this particular heist is a 17th Century royal scepter from France that happens to be languishing in the basement of the Montreal customhouse just asking to be taken. One of the would-be takers is Nick Wells (Robert De Niro), a seasoned heister dreaming of the quiet life of retirement but compelled to do this one last job as a favor to Max (Marlon Brando), an old buddy in hock to some pretty dangerous mob figures. Completing the triangle is Jack Teller (Edward Norton), a brilliant but brash young criminal mastermind whose high-risk temperament is placed in direct counterpoint to Nick's cool, levelheaded demeanor.
Perhaps the most amazing triumph for director Frank Oz is his success at pulling together this impressive cast of stellar heavyweights who cut across three generations of movie acting. Of course, one might wish to see them in roles more demanding of their thespian talents, but we moviegoers will take these three superstars any way we can get them. And `The Score' is certainly very entertaining on its own terms. The technical elements involved in the planning of the heist are beautifully detailed from start to finish. And Oz generates genuinely nail-biting suspense in many sequences involving close quarters and close calls. In addition, the Montreal setting is novel and fresh and it is enhanced by some very impressive wide screen photography.
A film like `The Score' lives or dies based on the intricacy of its plotting and the expertise of its craft. In both cases, `The Score' excels as an outstanding example of this noble and time-honored genre. And watching these three acting giants doing their thing in a movie together is OUR well-earned reward.