Out of 100 – The Score

Writer/director Malachi Smyth delivers a genre-busting debut

Two small-time crooks Mike and Troy are on a mission – the ‘score’ – that they both hope will transform their circumstances. While they wait for an all-important hand-over at a roadside café, Troy falls in love at first sight with waitress, Gloria (the always watchable Naomi Ackie), and begins to question his life choices. But driving down the road to meet them is the threat of real danger.

So far, so standard a storyline for a heist movie, but writer/director Malachi Smyth’s directorial feature debut is anything but typical. Smyth blends the traditional Hollywood thriller with a musical and stylises with influences borrowed from French New Wave cinema for an off-beat genre-busting mash-up. 

The original songs in the film were written and performed by singer/actor Johnny Flynn alongside other members of the cast. A singing Naomi Ackie gives a preview of what’s to come, as her portrayal of Whitney Houston in the bio-pic, I Wanna Dance with Somebody which is due for release at the end of the year. Flynn brings the same off-kilter menace to the role of Mike that marked him out as a rising star in the 2018 film, Beast, and makes a good foil to Will Pouter’s bad-boy-next-door turn as Troy. But it’s the sparing romance between Poulter and Ackie that delivers The Score’s more enjoyable moments.

Naomi Ackie & Will Poulter in The Score – Image Credit: Rob Baker Ashton

The film opens with a “wtf is this?” introduction to the three main characters, all in full-folk-rock song mode. It takes a while for both the audience and the film to find its footing. Just when you think you’ve got a handle on the situation the characters break into a melody again, which has the unfortunate effect of breaking the flow of action. The tunes don’t help to advance the narrative as in most musicals or add another layer of understanding to the inner motivation of the characters. Instead, they seem to cast a sense of ambiguity over proceedings.  

The film’s action takes place over one day, and the passing of time should add the weight of impending doom and tension. Who are these ‘professionals’ Mike has arranged to meet? Can Troy and Gloria escape with the bag of cash and start off anew elsewhere? Unfortunately, with all its stops and starts the story loses steam and the end result is a meandering tale that fails to hold attention throughout. Part thriller, part romance, part road-movie musical, The Score’s ambitious grasp for the fresh and new may exceed its reach, but Smyth’s experimental calling card is worth a look if just for his daring to try something different.

The Score, in UK cinemas and on Demand Friday 9th September. Link to cinemas here.

The soundtrack to the film will be released via EMI, details coming soon.


Naomi Ackie stars in The Score, a musical heist movie with a difference. Will Poulter (Detroit) and John Flynn (Beast) are the two low-level criminals waiting for the deal that they hope will change their lives.

OUT OF 100

40 %
80 %
65 %
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60 %
20 %
Production Design
25 %
60 %
For the Culture
30 %

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