Every thief dreams of the big heist that will allow him to leave the business of crime behind. Every thief except Nick (Robert De Niro), a cool, methodical safecracker who never takes on long-shot jobs until his longtime partner, Max (Marlon Brando), offers him the big score--to filch a priceless scepter from the Montreal customs house. Wary about the job, Nick and the hotheaded customs house "insider," Jackie (Edward Norton), begin to dissect the elaborate details of entering the building, avoiding the security measures, blowing the safe, and escaping with the scepter. But as in every thrilling crime caper, plans go awry.
Skilled comic director Frank Oz is clearly comfortable working with the best method actors from the past three generations. Brando's Max bursts with joyful cynicism, while De Niro is Brando's perfect foil, so collected that every smile seems like a revelation. Norton's Jackie is far more expressive, but it is Norton's smallest movements--holding a gaze a half beat too long--that hint at the secret motives pulsing beneath his skin. Smooth like the scotch Nick likes to drink, and swirling with tension, THE SCORE provides the real payoff to the audience.