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De Niro knows The Score, but Blonde isn't much fun

Las Vegas Mercury

The Score kicks ass. There's just no other way to say it.

If nothing else, the combination of Robert De Niro, Marlon Brando and Edward Norton, under any circumstances, makes for a worthwhile flick (especially with Norton reprising the split personality-type character he made famous in Primal Fear.)

The Score is a caper flick, with De Niro as Nick Wells, a master safecracker who longs to give up the life for his day job, owning a jazz club, and his girlfriend, the film's fourth and final big star, Angela Bassett. And who could blame him, really?

But before he can do that, he's got to face down one final job, breaking into the customs warehouse in his hometown of Montreal to nab a priceless French scepter. He doesn't quite trust Norton's Jackie Teller, the out-of-nowhere scammer who came up with the job and sold it to patron Max Baron (Brando) in the first place. The general lack of trust adds to the tension, but the real heart-pounding lies in the break-in itself.

De Niro paces his character with leisure, as does Brando, but it works for both of them. Norton has a somewhat harder task, playing a retarded assistant janitor half the time and a cunning thief the rest of the time. Bassett glides through her scenes with grace. And, as with all caper films, the ending is filled with twists.

The Score is well worth even full price.

On the other side of the ledger is Legally Blonde, the predictable tale of a college sorority president Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) who decides to take a try at Harvard Law to win back the heart of her heartless ex-boyfriend. It's the same old fish-out-of-water thing, her fully accessorized lifestyle clashing starkly in the Harvard Yard.

But wait, there's a message, too: Even those who seem like airheaded blondes can buckle down, study, get into law school and actually perform in court. When the suspect in a high-profile murder case turns out to be a Hollywood exercise guru of Woods' acquaintance, we know she'll be a better counselor than the stuffy white men interested only in nice cars, marrying well and hitting on cute law students.

"Believe in yourself," Woods remarks at one point. It's a good message, of course, but the converse, "know your limitations" is nowhere to be found, because in politically correct Hollywood, well, there just aren't any. Out there in the real world, that's just not so, which explains why the Full Metal Critic is a writer instead of going for his dream job: Game fish charter captain.

Well, maybe if Witherspoon can do "Legally Blonde," anything's possible, right? By the way, "Legally Blonde" edged out "The Score" at the box office, $20.3 million to $19 million. Of course.


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