Composer of the month John Barry month

Soundtrack review: The specialist (John Barry – 1994)

each cue is a gem which leads into the next one like the most exquisite string of pears, bound together by the main theme

 

I always found the decision to have John Barry score “The specialist” as very strange. Of course, after hearing the score this turned into “brilliantly” strange, but still…to have a modern thriller starring not one, but two Expendables (Sylvester Stallone and Eric Roberts) with music by the most romantic composer of them all seemed peculiar at first. It now makes me imagine the poster of the movie in black and white and set in the 40s.

I enjoyed the movie. Sly, Roberts, Sharon Stone and James Woods combined for an entertaining couple of hours, and I noticed John Barry’s subtle compositions at various moments. Usually in thrillers the music supports the action and blends with it. In this case, every now and then a beautiful and melancholic piano tune would silence the on screen agitation and make you focus on the notes.

The more I listen to John Barry, the harder it is to find new words to describe his music. The mood or sound doesn’t change very often, but boy is it beautiful! The music is wide, deep, intense, moody…there’s some new shade to discover in each cue…just listen to “The first bomb – Ray’s place”: every now and then you hear an echo which sounds like a drum being caressed with a soft brush.

So don’t expect to find action music in “The specialist”. Don’t expect pounding rhythms and deafening beats. Simply expect different nuances of intensity and tensions, all written with the softest of edges. The music flows like smooth silk and goes gentle on the ears. Instead of making the action loud, Barry makes it deep. It’s a very smart way of differentiating the tones and scenes, and it works.

Whatever the movie says or doesn’t say to you, the score is a wonderful listening experience. From luscious jazz lounge tracks like “Let’s see that beautiful face – “Did you call me”) through atmospheric pieces like “The death of Tomas” to haunting female background vocalizes in “Ray meets May at her funeral” (don’t ask, I didn’t say the movie had the smartest plot), each cue is a gem which leads into the next one like the most exquisite string of pears, bound together by the main theme “Did you call me” which recurs a few times throughout the composition. Each of the pearls has a slightly different shade, but is just as precious. Look for “The specialist” in (at least) my top 10 at the end of the month.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 53 / 58

Album excellence: 92%

Highlights:

The Specialist In Miami

May And Ray At The Cemetery

May Dances With Tomas – “Did You Call Me”

Ray Covers May – “Did You Call Me”

After Tomas

The First Bomb – Ray’s Place

Explosive Trent

The Parking Lot Bomb

Don’t Touch Me Ned – Bomb For Tomas

The Death Of Tomas

May’s Room – “Did You Call Me”

Ray Meets May At Her Funeral

Let’s See That Beautiful Face – “Did You Call Me”

Closing In On Ray

There Goes The Hotel Room – The Fight

May Meets Joe – I’m Not A Woman You Can Trust

You Go In And Get Him – “Did You Call Me”

The Whole Place Is Wired – She’s Hot Ray

Get To Hell Out Of Here

You Bastard – How Do You Feel? – Better! – “Did You Call Me” End Title

 

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).

Add Comment

Click here to post a comment