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Soundtrack review: Carlito’s way (Patrick Doyle, 1993)

Composer of the month Patrick Doyle month

Soundtrack review: Carlito’s way (Patrick Doyle, 1993)


“Carlito’s way”…One of those emotional, tragic, well acted mob movies you’ll remember long after you see it. Brian De Palma, Al Pacino, Sean Penn, enough said…Right from the first cue of the score, the title cue, you know what you’re in for…Even if it’s the first track ”Carlito’s way” already sounds like the end of a sad and meaningful movie…The orchestral work is beautiful, somber, unimposing, almost elegiac.
“Carlito and Gail” contains moments of hope, some of the very few in this score…A jolly piano breaks in halfway through the cue, then remains gentle until the end, making for a love theme right for this story involving broken characters trying to find redemption. A composer can achieve so much with only a few piano notes, if they are done right, and “The café” is a perfect example of that. A simple cue, but so beautiful that you will probably need to close your eyes to just let it take you over.
Even if I am not a fan of jazz and lounge cues, “LA line” fits perfectly in this score. It doesn’t break the rhythm; it doesn’t feel out of place, it’s in tune with the street life theme of the movie. The mood changes again in “You’re over, man”. The piano still dominates, except this time it’s brilliantly menacing and alert before running and hiding into a corner. “Where’s my cheesecake” is another jazz cue even quieter than the one before, a background piece, a break from the emotions.
The score becomes a little uneven with “The elevator” and “There’s an angle here”. They are suspense tracks, but not very engaging for me. I know they work very well in the movie, but in an out of context listen they aren’t the most interesting tracks. “Grand Central” is the center cue of this score, 10 minutes long, playing over the climax of the movie. The cue kept my attention or its duration, but it doesn’t have enough moments in which it grabs me, it misses the wow factor a cue this long needs to be considered excellent.
“Remember me” ends the score and I have the movie scene clear in my head. The elegiac mood returns, “Carlito’s way” comes full circle and it’s the right move from Patrick Doyle. All the struggles from the rest of the score, all the emotions slowly drown in a cue reminiscent of the opening theme, as the curtain drops…”Carito’s way” remains a score for some special moments, or for when you would want to remember the movie. It’s a little too sad to revisit outside of context…
My ratings:
Cue rating: 78 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 42
Album excellence: 51%
Cues to listen to:
Carlito’s way
Carlito and Gail
The cafe
LA Line
You’re over, man
Remember me

Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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