Part crime thriller, part romance and part musical, the vast majority of which takes place within a dinky roadside café in the middle of nowhere, writer-director Malachi Smyth’s feature debut is a strange genre mash-up peculiar enough to pique one’s interest. The minimalistic plot of The Score follows amateur criminals Mike (Johnny Flynn, who also wrote the original songs) and his loutish sidekick, Troy (Will Poulter). With a bag full of cash in the back of their car, their job is to wait for professional criminals to show so that they can strike a deal of some kind. As the day wears on, Troy strikes up a connection with quick-witted waiter Gloria (Naomi Ackie) and a romance starts to blossom. Meanwhile, tensions between Mike and Troy become fraught.
There’s an element of Waiting for Godot to the proceedings. A small cast of characters find themselves trapped in an isolated location which might as well be its own planet as they wait for the arrival of some unknown party. With nothing else to do, Troy and Gloria begin to question the value of their lives and wonder if it’s even possible for them to have a better future. Their grievances are expressed through Flynn’s country-western-flavoured soundtrack in the form of heartfelt ballads. Poulter and Ackie have impressive sets of lungs, and their voices blend to match their onscreen chemistry. The way they look at each other with doe-eyed expressions and carry themselves with a light-hearted charm make the pair instantly likeable. Watching the sparks fly between them is a joy.
Despite the warmth of the youngsters’ rapport, however, the impact of their tales is hampered by a one-note soundtrack. In what is a jarring choice from Flynn and Smyth, the small number of tracks lack variety in terms of musicality and lyrics. While a motif of rivers acts as a running metaphor throughout the songs, the approach to the compositions creates a stagnation, grinding the pace to a halt until the number is finished. Typically, a character’s song would express their emotions to progress the script. That doesn’t really happen here.
Watching Poulter and Ackie’s romance blossom makes waiting for the criminals to arrive a breeze. However, a lacklustre selection of musical numbers stops this intriguing premise from reaching its full potential.
The Score is released in select cinemas and on demand on 9th September 2022.
Watch the trailer for The Score here: