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Soundtrack review: American assassin (Steven Price – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: American assassin (Steven Price – 2017)


“American assassin” follows the rise of Mitch Rapp (Dylan O’Brien), a CIA black ops recruit under the instruction of Cold War veteran Stan Hurley (Michael Keaton). The pair is then enlisted by CIA Deputy Director Irene Kennedy (Sanaa Lathan) to investigate a wave of apparently random attacks on both military and civilian targets. Together the three discover a pattern in the violence leading them to a joint mission with a lethal Turkish agent (Shiva Negar) to stop a mysterious operative (Taylor Kitsch) intent on starting a world war. The score was written by Steven Price.

It’s interesting for me to find Steven Price involved in a regular thriller since he always wrote for special movies or documentaries, blockbusters. Whenever I see a plot like this I fear I might get a generic dark thriller score like we’ve gotten dozens over the last few years; it’s not the composer’s fault since it’s usually the producers that ask for “a score that sounds like…”. I have hopes from this score from Steven Price because the opening cue “The proposal” sounds like a good experiment; the cue has a haunting cello motif that blends with electronic sounds and a piano melody to bring a varied and enjoyable piece of music.

From the host of thrillers from the past few years few scores managed to truly captivate my attention and James Newton Howard’s “Salt” was one of them. I listen to “Mitch Rapp” and I get flashbacks of that score in an alert cue that also tries to get emotional with a heroic guitar motif. This variety would be welcomed in the next few cues as they become a bit repetitive with the same action motif reminiscent of Harry Gregson William’s scores for Tony Scott movies going up and down.

As the score goes on my worries about thriller compositions slowly come back. I struggle to find something exciting in the music; I listen to it and it seems kind of empty without the support of the images. There are moments of buildup with short and stabbing string sections and equally short heroic motifs but it’s not enough. I imagine the music sounds right in the context of the movie but the cues sometimes feel as if they were properly pieced together. The motifs already introduced are combined in almost every cue until I kind of lose count and the tracks start to sound the same. This also means that I will hear again that cello motif and that build up I liked but It seems random.

My biggest problem with this score is that there doesn’t seem to be any coherence in the music. The cues have different titles but they could very well be shuffled and my listening experience wouldn’t change. I cannot put my finger on an emotional theme or on a proper action theme; the score stays in that suspense zone that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere and except the short heroic buildups there’s not a lot for me to really enjoy.

I had hopes from the nearly 10 minutes long “Animal spirit” to change the game but it’s just more of the same only without a break. For me “American Assassin” didn’t deliver from the musical point of view and I will revisit the score in the context of the movie to get a different perspective.

Cue rating: 71 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 0 / 51

Album excellence: 0%

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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  1. FaresTdkr 28th October 2017

    I Find “Katrina” is really what define Steven price music I love it so much.


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