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Film / The Score

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The Score is a 2001 crime thriller directed by Frank Oz and starring Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Angela Bassett, and Marlon Brando in his final film role.

Nick Wells (De Niro), a professional criminal, decides to leave the business for good, since he nearly got caught on his last job. His plan is to live in peace with his girl Diane (Bassett), running his Montreal jazz club. Soon afterward, Max (Brando), his good friend and financial partner, comes along with an offer Nick can't refuse: A historical and priceless French sceptre has been discovered while being smuggled into the country. It is now under massive surveillance in the Montreal Customs House, and soon to be returned to France. Nick has to team up with Max's man inside, the young, talented and aggressive thief Jack Teller (Norton) to get the precious item. Only one question remains: Who will trick whom out of their share?

The Score contains examples of:

  • As Himself: At one point, Jack mentions a singer in Nick's nightclub is "pretty good." Who is this singer? Jazz legend Mose Allison. Nick lets it pass without comment.
  • Basement-Dweller: Stephen, who still lives with his mother (to his constant annoyance).
  • Briefcase Blaster: Teller conceals the pistol he uses on the heist within a little radio he carries around as "Brian".
  • Bullying a Dragon: Annoyed that some idiot upstart tried to pitch a job to him when he really didn't want to know anymore of the thieving business, Nick sends one of his friends (a pretty tough bouncer) to Teller's home to deliver a message. Jack fights back (and hard) against the bouncer and comes to Nick's home the day after to have a more civilized talk.
  • Canada, Eh?: Averted. At no point does any character says anything disparaging or stereotypical of Canada. The film does takes place in Montreal and Nick is reluctant to do a job in the city, but only because he lives there.
    Nick: "Never do jobs in your backyard". You taught me that, Max.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Teller continuously believes that he is going to be double-crossed or stiffed on his cut of the heist, and as such he continuously talks about and does stuff that could endanger the heist (such as getting out of the Customs House as soon as the heist is over and heading straight to Nick's for his cut, even if that could blow his cover, or bringing a gun to the exchange with Sapperstein), culminating in him stealing the scepter from Nick at gunpoint right after he has taken it from the safe. The moment he finds out that what he took is a fake he tries to threaten Nick with a Taking You with Me by telling the police about him, but Nick tells him that he has already wiped his trail and Teller is the only criminal that the cops can identify, and thus the focus of the manhunt to come.
  • The Cracker: Stephen.
  • Does Not Like Guns: Nick never uses a gun on a job, and he is very upset when he discovers Jack is carrying one.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: A discussion early on between Nick and Jack is about the difficulty to open the safe holding the scepter (it's an advanced model that is impossible to drill into) and thus Nick remains thinking of a method to do this... until he sees some transport men dropping a beer keg and the keg's pressure blasting the top open.
  • Fakin' MacGuffin: Nick (anticipating a double-cross) swaps out the sceptre he was hired to steal for the axle they used as stand-in during their trial runs, meaning that Teller ends up with nothing when he does betray him. Also qualifies as a Gambit Roulette.
  • Fat Bastard: Max. Nick is less than pleased with Max egging him into the Customs House job (but accepts once he makes it very clear that it is his last one), and nearly bails immediately when it appears that Max has gotten in debt with The Cartel and this may end with Nick being stiffed off from his payment (or worse), but Max manages to convince him to stay.
  • Gentleman Thief: Nick. It is this (and his sticking to some very necessary rules) that are the reason he has lasted as long as he has.
  • Hacker Cave: Stephen lives in one.
  • The Heist: Robbing the Customs House is seen as an Impossible Mission because of the various details about, from its construction (bunker-style basement) to the upgrades in security that happen once the House personnel knows how valuable the scepter is.
  • Hollywood Hacking: Anything involving Stephen. "Cruising around at root COBOL level when he pulled me into a private chat room" makes no sense at all, and neither (even in 2000) does encrypting an entire super-secret database with a single 10-key password that tells you every three characters if you're entering the correct one.
  • Improv: The back and forth between Robert De Niro and Marlon Brando, who were purposely given only key points to hit in dialogue and then simply left in front of a camera.
  • Inside Job: Jack gets a job as a janitor in the Customs House so he has access to the building and can see the security measures first hand. He even goes as far as to pretend to be mentally disabled so he appears harmless and beneath suspicion.
  • Ironic Echo: The near-Verbal Tic "Okay, bye bye" that Teller uses as part of his act is repeated back to him by Nick after the double cross occurs, which leaves Teller as the lead suspect.
  • Janitor Impersonation Infiltration: Jack gets a job on the Customs House cleaning crew to act as inside man for the heist.
  • My Beloved Smother: According to Stephen, this is what his mom is. It's implied that at least part of that complaint is him acting crazy from drugs and sleep deprivation.
  • No Honour Among Thieves: Teller and Nick never fully trust each other, and with good reason. Teller thinks that Max and Nick are giving him a sucker's share of the proceeds for a job he set up. Teller then betrays Nick, steals the scepter for himself, and leaves Nick to (almost) be apprehended by the security guards at the Customs House. Nick anticipated this, hands over a fake scepter to Teller, and then leaves Teller to face the music alone, without his cut.
  • Obfuscating Disability: Teller pretends to be mentally disabled as part of his plan to infiltrate the Customs House cleaning crew.
  • Oh, Crap!: Jack, at the moment he realises Nick has turned the tables on him and handed over a worthless sceptre. To add insult to injury, he is now the subject of a massive police manhunt.
  • Older Hero Versus Younger Villain: For a given value of "hero", this is the Nick/Jack mechanic: Jack wants a bit too much to gain money and recognition as a master thief and thus does stupid moves, while Nick is a veteran master thief and sees enough of a potential in Jack to make various of their discussions small lessons about thinking in the long term and not drawing any heat... which, obviously, Jack doesn't cares about.
  • One Last Job: Max talks Nick into stealing the sceptre as his last job. After almost being caught on a job at the beginning by two people who entered the room to try to have sex he insists that the Customs House job will be his last, even if some of the other characters don't believe him. He tells Jack at the end that he got rid of his thief gear workshop off-screen, and aside from Jack's word, there is no evidence remaining of his second life.
  • Pet the Dog: Originally, Jack was going to kill Danny, but Edward Norton felt that Jack would want to spare Danny's life because Danny was a friend to Jack's alter ego Brian when he had no reason to be.
  • Psycho Party Member: Jack Teller, to all intents and purposes. A rookie thief that constantly jumps the gun (and carries a gun, a big no-no for the Gentleman Thief Nick) and believes that he will be double-crossed and cut out of his part of the loot once everything's done. Sapperstein's "cousin" could also be considered one, fidgety about the amount of time it takes to check the password and bringing a gun to a public meeting (and pretty willing to use it up until Jack shows him his own gun and mentions what a bad idea would be for things to end on a Blast Out).
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Nick makes clear that he's fed up with being a thief and the movie's heist his his true-blue One Last Job from the moment he accepts to do it, and a few times throughout the film he actually decides to quit right then and there when another twist pops up and annoys him a bit too much (starting with Teller trying to approach Nick on the street using his "Brian" persona and the final time when it looks like he's going to lose all of the money he could make from the scepter to The Cartel because Max somehow let slip there was a job being done to them). He ends up being talked out of it.
  • Self-Destructing Security: One of the greatest obstacles in the heist is the top-of-the-line safe that holds the scepter, that has glass packing so the lock can't be drilled, otherwise additional tumblers will fall into place and seal it completely shut. Nick goes around this by drilling a hole on the top of the safe, filling the inside with water and then setting off an explosive, causing the water expansion to rip the door open.
    Nick Wells: (On what happens if the packing breaks). You're fucked. You can't break it open with a bulldozer.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: Stephen's final line to his mother.
    Stephen: (tosses food in the general direction of his mother's voice) I'm on the phone, bitch!
  • Trespassing to Talk: Jack Teller's Establishing Character Moment comes in two back-to-back scenes where he insists in trying to pitch the score to Nick: by approaching Nick on the street using his "Brian" cover and then breaking into Max's house while Nick and Max are talking about Teller to continue trying, as well as saying to Max that he thought he had already convinced Nick.
  • Villainous Breakdown: Teller during his final call to Nick. Starting by being smug about having "out-thought" Nick by taking the scepter at gunpoint and the moment he discovers it's a fake and having an Oh, Crap! moment about it trying to threaten Nick with a Taking You with Me by selling him to the cops if they capture him to which Nick responds that he has already destroyed any evidence linking him to the robbery, gives him an Ironic Echo and hangs up, leaving Teller in the bus station acting nervous to any cop sirens he hears in the distance.
  • Wet Blanket Wife: Wet Blanket Girlfriend: Nick's girlfriend is tired of his double-life and is a bit skeptical about Nick wanting to do One Last Job, so she leaves on the third act (because her airline stewardess job demands it) and tells Nick that if he hasn't made a decision when she comes back, she will leave. Unusual for the trope, Nick wholeheartedly agrees about her point and gets rid of all of his thief tools (except for the ones he needs for the heist, off-screen), makes sure everybody knows it will be his last job, and greets her at the airport at the end.
  • What Were You Thinking?: Jack to Sapperstein and his cousin, when the latter sets up a money swap to take place in a public park with families and children all around. Nick gives a similar talk to Jack once the swap is done, because he doesn't like the fact that Jack carried a gun to the swap, either.