Credit: Gravitas Ventures
Before We Vanish by Molly Adams Film

The Score — Malachi Smyth

June 30, 2022

The Score offers some conceptual intrigue, but its vitality as a musical is undermined by source material ill-suited to the form.

Based on the music of one of its stars, Johnny Flynn, Malachi Smyth’s The Score follows career-criminals Mike and Troy (Flynn and Will Poulter, respectively) as they lay low at a roadside cafe, waiting for their handover contact. The setup is a fairly simple one: while they wait, Troy begins to fall for their waitress, Gloria (Naomi Ackie), and reconsiders the choices that led him here.

In terms of personal taste, even the most accessible of musicals has a pretty high barrier of entry for general audiences. Performers have to be doubly talented, and audiences often have to be given a solid reason for the project to take the form of a musical in the first place, given the recent mainstream cynicism for the genre. So while a jukebox musical is normally a safe bet, trading on the audience’s love of an artist to buy a bit of goodwill, Johnny Flynn’s music is not the most obvious choice. Full of grand metaphors and literary allusion but light on character or obvious narrative, Johnny Flynn’s music tends toward the distinctly poetic — which is to say, the music itself is good, but each time The Score indulges in a musical number, the film grinds to a halt. Flynn’s unique sound contributes a lot to the film’s tense atmosphere, and the numbers do a good job summarizing the film’s very obvious themes and communicating emotional beats that have already occurred in the spoken script, but rarely do they actually earn the time they occupy. As exceptional as it is, Flynn’s music wasn’t designed to convey plot or character, and it’s ultimately unable to take the strain of a conventional narrative.

Flynn is unfortunately among the project’s weaker points when it comes to his performance as well. His accent is patchy and often distracts, and while his musical talents are obvious, it’s not enough to gloss over the lesser aspects of his work here. Poulter and Ackie fare better, with the former’s trademark comedic timing and his surprising musical skill being one of The Score’s more redeeming qualities, and Ackie lending the film a grounding force that stops it from wandering too far into its own grandiose themes of tragedy. And while the pair’s chemistry isn’t anything for the history books, it never proves distancing, and both actors navigate their characters’ child-like bond with a sincerity that only underlines Flynn’s ominous lyrics. There might not be enough in The Score to recommend it on its own merits, but the component parts of the film show considerable promise, particularly in Poulter’s lead performance. But for those not sold on musicals in general or the music of Johnny Flynn specifically, Poulter and Ackie’s charm won’t be enough to convert many.

Published as part of Before We Vanish — June 2022.