Film scores

Soundtrack review: Mad as hell (Ronen Landa – 2015)

Ronen Landa - Mad As Hell (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

“Mad as hell” is a documentary about “The young Turks”, one of the most popular YouTube shows and, apparently, the most watched online news program in the world. From what I read the founder of “The young Turks” Cenk Uygur is quite an interesting and sometimes controversial character. The score for the documentary was written by Ronen Landa, who for me had one of the most exciting horror scores in 2014 with “At the devil’s door”.

Obviously the style of this score is different. This story has exuberance, enthusiasm and energy. “Mad as hell”, the main theme, is cool and funky. Both this and the next track “A higher purpose” start with actual excerpts from the show and I start to get a feeling what the gimmick is. This guy is actually angry when he presents the news. Or, should I say, outraged. “A higher purpose” is more of an experimental track with all sorts of interesting sounds, most of them cold and grungy.

“Of course! (Funk the Turks)” is, you guessed, it, cool and funky. I feel like grooving in my chair that’s how cool it is. I am not usually a fan of jazz but this piece really does it for me. The fun and energetic trumpet inserts and the sweet bass, everything just clicks. I imagine this cue plays over a montage in the documentary, like maybe for the part where the channel started to take off. “Online” is pure guitar goodness. The use of the guitar in a lot of cues gives me the impression of a  main character who would not back down or stray from his path. Guitar has always been the instrument to mark strong characters and give the impression of power.

The few seconds of show excerpts that open most of the cues are a nice addition. Voice overs in a score are hit and miss but this being a documentary about an online news show, they work. As I am writing this “Shut up juice” plays in my ears and I lost my train of thought because this is one exciting piece of music. I know I’ve used the word “cool” before but it fits once again. This is a melody that doesn’t even need to be on a score to be enjoyed. You could hear it on any radio and you would turn the volume up and try to find out who was playing.

There’s a cue called “A Kurt Russell moment”. I love Kurt Russel and I wonder what this is all about. The voice over somehow makes me think of his cocky self from “Tango and Cash”. Listening again to the guitar in this track gives me a strange sensation. The music of “Mad as hell” doesn’t sound like a movie score. It could work very well as a separate listen, just as a great album for guitar and bass lovers. The listening experience is interesting and rewarding enough without even thinking of the story.

“Old media vs new media” is the most important ideological conflict in “Mad as hell” and I am expecting a duel or dialogue of instruments of some sorts. I don’t get that. It gives me more the impression of an inner dilemma. Then it’s back to the domination of the guitar in “Out of the movie” and for me, a guy who listens to guitar music a lot this album gets more and more enjoyable. I will certainly find out who played the instruments on this score. (Edit: as it turns out, Ronen Landa himself played the bass and the guitars while Mike Savino played the upright bass)

“The guy who talks to much” sounds as if taken from the “Ocean’s 11” movies. It’s the same kind of fun. I can almost see a guy pulling a heist and enjoying the hell out of it. Just like I enjoyed this score. A light and cool composition, fresh and entertaining, modern as the subject of the documentary it completes. Ronen Landa shows great versatility and I can’t wait to hear his next compositions.

Cue rating: 83 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 11 / 37

Album excellence: 29%

Highlights:

Of Course! (Funk The Turks)

Shut Up Juice

Out Of A Movie

The Guy Who Talks Too Much

About the author

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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