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Soundtrack review:: Barely lethal (Mateo Messina – 2015)

Film scores

Soundtrack review:: Barely lethal (Mateo Messina – 2015)


“Barely lethal” is a high school action comedy about a girl who wants to ditch her secret agent job and live the life of a normal teenager as an exchange student.

The beginning of the score puzzles me even if the cue is not even a minute long. It sounded as if someone was tuning up their radio or channel surfing, trying to find the right sound. Is it electric guitar? Is it the synth? Is it a smooth, cool beat? Is it a percussion motif? The search continues into the next cue, the music is still undecided. It sounds as if I am walking through a long corridor and each room on that corridor hides a band playing a different sound. I hear each of them as I get closer but there’s nothing cohesive in the sound.

Still, I applaud a composer who likes to experiment. I prefer a score like “Barely lethal” to some simple and boring score I’ve heard countless times before. Mateo Messina experiments with instruments, sound effects and moods and I can understand a messy and flamboyant cue like “Victoria Knox”. Reading the description of the movie and main character this cue actually makes sense and besides, it’s a lot of fun. It sounds like something you would hear in Chuck or other similar shows.

Even if I find very little to connect with in this score (safe for the short synth parts because I can connect with those even if they were 5 seconds long) I am not the least bit frustrated by it. The music is interesting, fun and varied and I would call “Barely lethal” an appealing chaos. I mean, take “HS transition” for example with is just an 18 seconds long bridge, but I enjoy its electronic sound. I laughed at the two “Truth serum” cues and felt like it was time to join the fun of this score and be even more open minded.

“Car chase” would be one of the wacky highlights of this musical adventure. This cue has time to develop and it’s crazy enough to make sense and become memorable. It’s techno, funky, dreamy and it could work on the score for an arcade game. It is the most exciting piece from “Barely lethal” for me and even brings me some precious nostalgia. With this and “Number one” I see a pattern… when the music has time to develop and the cues are longer, they make more sense and are more enjoyable.

In the end this score is interesting and charming enough to leave me with a smile. Like I said I always appreciate a composer who brings something new and “Barely lethal” was a nice introduction for Mateo Messina.

Cue rating: 76 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 7 / 33

Album excellence: 20%

Victoria Knox

Hs Transition

Car Chase

Higher School

Prescott Reprise

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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