Film scores

Soundtrack review: The Gunman (Marco Beltrami – 2015)

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“The gunman” is the latest installment in the wave of “Taken” clones that have taken over the movie world in the past few years. I haven’t seen such a desire to emulate the formula of a movie since “Die hard”. It is true, that Liam Neeson movie was great and proved that the audiences were in the mood for over 50 years old action heroes played by unlikely actors. Denzel has done it, Liam Neeson is still doing it a few times a year and now it was time for none other than Sean Penn to try it. The movie is directed by the man who gave us “Taken”, but the reviews aren’t very flattering. Marco Beltrami wrote the score and his resume and recent compositions were enough to make me excited about “The Gunman”, even if enough similar movies had rather generic scores.

As the movie follows a well know recipe the score opens with expected sounds: short cues, electronic pulses and the mandatory melancholy in “Jim’s bedroom” to show us that the main character has a haunted past. “The gunman” theme gives me the same sensation I would have if I accidentally put my hand inside a spider web. The sound is thin and almost invisible but it doesn’t let go; I can’t shake it even if I’m not enjoying it very much.

As the score progresses I hear the elements that should be there. The movie has a plot involving Africa so I hear shadows of ethnic percussion inserted into the action tracks. I also understand why the score is so quiet in some moments. Knowing Sean Penn I don’t imagine his character being very chatty or funny. He’s probably quiet and morose. He must also have some health problems because the two “Head trouble” cues are uncomfortable and painful in sound. But if the story and character are like this I want the music to at least make me feel his drama and tribulations, like Freddie Wiedmann’s “Dying of the light” or Laurent Eyquiem’s “Tokarev” did. I am almost halfway through “The gunman” and nothing stuck to me.

“Following Annie” defines my relationship with this score. This melodic piano cue is the point where the graph meets the axis and it’s the kind of cue which I would consider a filler and “normal” if I was listening to an emotional score I was invested in while in “The Gunman” it represents the first moment when I felt something. This is a sign of a score I won’t remember once it’s over.

The action parts sound similar and end up morphing into one cue really. If you hear “Village people” you know what this score is all about. You don’t need to hear the rest of the pieces. It’s like the music buzzes in my ear trying to make an impression but it doesn’t succeed. I know it’s Beltrami because I can’t call “The gunman” generic; it has small experimental inserts that show the potential of this composer. It’s just that those inserts or small pieces don’t come together in coherent themes or a rewarding listening experience, at least not for me. The music is generally dark and plain; it doesn’t have a fulfilling and layered darkness and it got a little frustrating for me.

And yet I did get my reward at the very end… “Reunited” finally brings the emotion and meaning I was looking for. This is a cue I will definitely remember, it felt like a release as if the turmoil was over and the music was finally free.

I will see this movie and I might return to this review afterwards, maybe it works really well in context.

 

 

Cue rating: 70 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 5 / 64

Album excellence: 8%

Highlights:

Reunited

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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