Frank Oz is a man famous for his voice. Yoda, Grover, Bert, Miss Piggy: you name it, this puppeteer has done it. In The Score, he directs giants from three generations of American cinema: Edward Norton, Robert De Niro, and Marlon Brandon. So much talent, ego, and salary concentrated in the same place generate some unusual difficulties. First, the film has to be really really good. Second, directorial disputes are inevitable, which makes the product harder to personalize. Both difficulties flit about The Score's slick, polished edges
The three are career criminals who specialize in jewelry theft. De Niro's Nick is the steady, cautious man about to leave the life and retire with his girlfriend (an underused Angela Bassett). Much action takes place in his moody jazz club. Brando turns in a prodigiously understated and hammy performance as Max, Nick's fence. These big cats know how to act; most of their scenes are skillfully underplayed. Norton's a young upstart who convinces Nick to take one final crack—at a jewel-encrusted scepter in one of Canada's most guarded rooms. He feigns cerebral palsy in order to get a janitor's job and case the spot. The double-characterization gives Norton meaty material to sink his teeth into, which he gladly does.
The film's confidence is winning. It allows the drama to establish its own pace and nourishes the tension of the heist. The Score is enjoyable and accomplished but—as a by-product of its Big Names—may leave viewers wanting more.