Combining tragedy, comedy and romance into a crime thriller musical, The Score is an admirably ambitious feature debut from Malachi Smyth. The plot follows crooks Troy (Will Poulter) and Mike (Johnny Flynn) as they stop off at a roadside café to carry out a deal. As they await their criminal counterparts, they meet waitress Gloria (Naomi Ackie), and an unexpected relationship develops.
Taking place almost entirely in one location, and with only a handful of characters involved, the narrative has the intimacy of a stage play. This approach is complimented in the way the camera constructs composition, and the evolving dynamics between the central trio are interesting to experience.
However, the film suffers from tonal issues as the musical elements feel quite jarring against the main story. The original songs, written by actor and musician Johnny Flynn, are folky and haunting, but feel out of place within the context of this low-rent gangster flick. A split-screen technique is used throughout to illustrate the intersecting arcs, and to Smyth’s credit, this works very well during an entertaining showdown finale.
This is undoubtedly an impressive cast on paper, but it feels as though the individuals aren’t quite played to their strengths on this occasion. Will Poulter has cheeky chappy charm and likeability in abundance, and Ackie has been excellent in recent roles in the likes of Master of None and Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series. Despite this, as a romantic pairing, there’s a lack of chemistry that leaves a gap where the emotional impact should be. The standout is Johnny Flynn, who, off the back of his turn in Chicago caper The Outfit, is ditching his nice-guy persona, now finding success in these crafty, duplicitous turns. He’s an endlessly intriguing presence on screen, and this smart performance only emphasises that.
It’s difficult to fault the ballsiness of a filmmaker that’ll touch upon so many genres in their first bite of the directorial cherry. Malachi Smyth’s The Score has just enough swagger to style out its flaws, even if it’s not always on song.