As such he does a reasonable professional acting job but one expects so much more of him. There is little depth to his character although he does at least intrigue.
The character in the film who asks de Niro to go on the job is played by Marlon Brando, an actor also once considered the world's finest.
Since his weight ballooned to eyepopping proportions, Brando has been content to pop up in cameo roles as he does here and just go through the motions. One wonders today whether he's worth the money: it is certainly doubtful that he is a box office draw any more.
Making up the trio of stars is Edward Norton, one of the the younger American stars-in-waiting, who turns in a pleasant if unremarkable performance as the young man sent along with de Niro on the job.
This involves cracking a safe to steal a priceless sceptre (don't ask). De Niro is meant to be the expert in the field but he has always worked with certain rules. He does crack safes on homeground and he likes to work alone.
And this time, he breaks them both. To be fair to Frank Oz's direction and a three-man screenplay, The Score works well enough as a thriller with a few twists and a nail-biting climax in the theft itself.
And it certainly has a touch of credibility to it which is more than can said of some recent entries in this genre.