Blu-ray
Recommended
3.5 stars
Amazon
$19.96
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Overall Grade
3.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4 Stars
HD Video Quality
3 Stars
HD Audio Quality
3.5 Stars
Supplements
2.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
0 Stars
Bottom Line
Recommended

The Score

Street Date:
September 11th, 2012
Reviewed by:
Review Date: 1
August 31st, 2010
Movie Release Year:
2001
Studio:
Paramount
Length:
124 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated R
Release Country
United States

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

Heist movies in today's Hollywood seem to play out more like the remake of 'The Italian Job.' That's not to say 'The Italian Job' was a bad flick, but it's just far too predictable for its own good. The entire movie revolves around the quickly cut action and chase scenes, which take precedence over the team dynamics, and character interactions. Maybe that's why I like 'The Score' so much. It's low-key in its approach to the big heist, but still manages to create an air of suspense.

Nick Wells (Robert De Niro) is a careful and meticulous thief. He spends his time in Canada where he has a nice apartment, a great little jazz club, and a beautiful girlfriend (Angela Bassett). After a very close call during the beginning of the film as Nick is relieving a household of their priceless diamonds, he figures maybe this is the time to give up this lifestyle. He's good at what he does, and if careful, he could do it forever, but factoring in his girlfriend, who hates his extra-curricular activities, one last job could set him up perfectly for retirement.

Isn't that always the case? One last job and then the lead character is going straight. He's going to live a regular life. That's about the only clichéd aspect of 'The Score.' The rest of the film, directed by Frank Oz, feels fresh, even though we have a good idea of what's going to happen.

Edward Norton brings swagger to the role of Jack Teller, an up-and-coming young thief who has been working on a huge score for the last three weeks. Constructing his own Verbal Kint persona, Teller gets hired on at the local customs house as a nighttime janitor with apparent mental and physical disabilities. Jack uses the name Brian at his job and has become loved by everyone who works there. Norton does a great job playing Brian without seeming offensive or unbelievable.

Nick and Jack butt heads more than once. Nick has been in the game a long time and has learned what an acceptable risk is. Jack flies by the seat of his pants hoping to come away from a huge gamble with a huge reward. 'The Score' doesn't reveal all its cards right at the beginning, it builds slowly but surely throughout the movie, one scene upon another. There's a scene where Jack and Nick have to meet some guys in a public park in order to exchange money and information with them. It's a scene that shouldn't be as tense as it is, but 'The Score' makes that scene as exciting as any chase scene out there. Oz's direction is slow and methodical, but you can see what it's building to.

'The Score' may not be bright and flashy, with explosions, car crashes, and gunfire, but it gets everything right. It works as a unassuming heist thriller with dynamite acting (check out Marlon Brando in one of his last roles). It's clever, discreet, and entertaining. It also has, for my money, the most interesting way to break into safe that I've ever seen in a film. That one scene has stuck with me for years, but even with how exciting that is, as De Niro explains coolly, it's "only physics." Such is 'The Score.' Never embellishing, but always creating a calm, collected, yet understated atmosphere. In short, this is one well-crafted film.

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

Paramount's release of 'The Score' in high definition remains somewhat of a jumble. Transferred to 1080p 'The Score' looks amazing some of the time, and mediocre other times. 'The Score' has a few strengths, one being the level of detail it produces when it tries. When De Niro is standing on the safe drilling into it with yellow and white sparks flying everywhere, the image looks downright great. On the other hand, zooming in on faces reveals a complete lack of fine detail. Faces look almost too smooth, pores are rarely visible. Bassett's hair seems to mesh together into a blob, instead of being alive with detail from each and every strand of hair.

Blacks are crushing. When De Niro walks into his club at the beginning to talk to his large friend, his face is gobbled up by the surrounding shadows. We're only left with a silhouette. Colors come across a little on the flat side, with even the greenery of Canada never seeming very lush or rich. To its credit though, the outside scenes on the city streets look really good, with great lighting and some good detail on towering buildings and cobbled streets. Skintones seem slightly off, like they should be a shade darker, but a fine haze has settled on the film making everything seem just a tad too murky. There's a shot of Brando at the end when he's watching TV that is just downright atrocious with shades of gray and purple run amok. This is a middling transfer at best. Nothing jumps out to me screaming high definition. There are those few scenes where De Niro is cutting through metal with a blow torch that look amazing, but other than that, the entire transfer for 'The Score' falls flat.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD fairs a little better in terms of quality than the video does, providing a well-rounded soundfield for out little caper film. Voices are presented clearly through the front channels which is nice because 'The Score' is heavy on the dialogue. The original music produced by Howard Shore fills the soundtrack with the intensity of an orchestra. The music bleeds into the rear speakers offering a full-bodied experience.

Effects are nicely placed and directionality plays a big part. During the blow torch scenes it sounds like you can hear sparks landing all around you. Ambient sound is produced, although slightly subdued, during the jazz club scenes that feature a fairly crowded restaurant with a live band performing. 'The Score' doesn't offer much in the way of high-octane chase scenes, or gigantic explosions, so those type of action sounds won't be found here. Instead, Shore's music plays a crucial role in helping us know when scenes are becoming intense, and when we should be paying attention. Besides the dialogue, I think that Shore's music is the most important part of this soundtrack and it's treated very well.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

  • Audio Commentary – Director Frank Oz, and director of photography Rob Hahn sit down and discuss the film. Even though Oz started his career with the Muppets (something Brando reportedly had trouble getting around), he's a great director (I've always loved 'Bowfinger'). Oz and Hahn talk about the film, working with the cast, and certain shooting aspects that they loved. They talk a lot about the jazz club set and why it needed to look so nice. It's something that was calling for Nick to quit his thieving ways. They also talk about how they had to use two cameras simultaneously when Brando and De Niro were together, because they both like to improvise. Oz is good at keeping the commentary light, but interesting. He does voices for Muppets, so of course the guy is going to be fun to listen to. This is recommended listening for anyone who purchases this title.
  • The Making of 'The Score' (SD, 12 min.) – Complete with a trailer-like opening this making of feels very much like a promotional video pieced together from promotional interviews and footage from the movie. They've even got the Deep Voice Movie Guy providing a voice-over about what's happening.
  • Additional Footage (SD, 8 min.) – There are three scenes included here. "Brando/De Niro Improv," is a great little scene with the two iconic actors improvising their lines. This scene was cut down to a few minutes in the movie, but it's great to see the two playing off each other. "Coffee Shop" talks more about how they planned the job. It was nice that this extension of this scene was left out of the film, and we just got to watch it all play out during the execution of it. "Mose Allison" is just an extended jazz music scene of no consequence.
  • Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 min.) – The theatrical trailer is included.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

There are no HD exclusives.

Final Thoughts

As far as heist movies go, 'The Score' is somewhere near the top. It features a slow burning plot that crackles with intensity. Bolstered by some great performances from De Niro, Norton, and Brando, this movie never had a chance to become second-rate. Sadly the video doesn't live up to showcasing the movie in the brightest light possible, but at least the sound is slightly better. The extras are lean, but that's to be expected for a catalog title. I'm still going to recommend 'The Score,' regardless of the less-than-stellar video presentation, just because it's such a great film.

Technical Specs

  • 50GB Blu-ray Disc

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 2.35:1

Audio Formats

  • English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround Sound

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, French, Portuguese, Spanish

Supplements

  • Audio commentary
  • The making of The Score
  • Additional footage
  • Theatrical trailer

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