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The Score

With a dream cast, sturdy story and a touch of class, this is the kind of sophisticated heist flick that would just as easily be at home in 1951 as it is in 2001. Nick (Robert De Niro) is a suave, seen-it-all Montreal safecracker who's about to give up his gentlemanly life of crime for his main squeeze Diane (Angela Bassett) and his jazz club when he's coerced by his wealthy longtime fence, Max (Marlon Brando), into pulling off one last job: a jewelry heist that could net them millions. Max's man on the inside, Jack (Edward Norton), has been mapping the layout of the Montreal Customs House where a priceless object is stored by disguising himself as a mentally challenged janitor. Nick and Jack plan the caper at Nick's club (where Cassandra Wilson and Mose Allison perform in a series of stylish vignettes), but Nick isn't sure he trusts his new partner. He considers scotching the whole thing when Max plays his trump card: He's in deep to another heavy, and if Max doesn't pay him back soon, his life could be in danger. Being an honorable thief in the long tradition of honorable movie thieves, Nick goes ahead with the heist, but against his better judgment. Not surprisingly, the acting here is top notch. Brando mugs brilliantly throughout his scenes with De Niro, and although the material isn't always up to snuff, these two vets are so loose that the sparks can't help but fly. Norton manages to hold his own with the heavies, and his character-within-a-character turn as the autistic janitor is engaging but never distasteful. Bassett, on the other hand, is left with little to do in the thankless girlfriend role, but the interaction between the three leads makes this omission somewhat less painful. As comfortable as its swinging soundtrack, and as smooth as Cassandra Wilson's vocals, this is one heist that goes down real easy.