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Soundtrack review: 68 kill (Frank Ilfman & James Griffiths – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: 68 kill (Frank Ilfman & James Griffiths – 2017)

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“68 Kill” is a 2017 American crime film written and directed by Trent Haaga. The film stars Matthew Gray Gubler, AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe, Sheila Vand, Sam Eidson and Michael Beasley. It started with a couple dead bodies and $68,000 in stolen cash. Chip Taylor’s girlfriend Liza had the perfect plan to rip off her rich sugar daddy. It should have been an easy in and out kind of deal. Nobody would get hurt and they would come out of it with enough loot to solve their problems. But things started going wrong as soon as they were inside the rich man’s house, and for Chip it was only the beginning of the longest, most terrifying ride of his life. The scores was written by Frank Ilfman and James Griffiths, two composers I am always happy to hear music from. If you are not familiar with James Griffiths, check out his score for  The drift. You’ll thank me.

I like my thriller scores simple and efficient; this is one genre where I am not looking for bells and whistles, for epic themes or heartbreaking emotional moments. When I listen to a thriller score I want to hear tension, suspense and heist motifs to keep me guessing and even amused. It’s tricky when two composers get to work on a score and in “68 kills” the two writing styles compliment each other and blend together very well; in some cues the contributions sound clearer to me as for example I think “The blackout” sounds very James Griffiths. There’s the guitar, here are the electronic synth motifs and the flow of the entire album is quite nice. The opening cue “68 thousand dollars” is light and sunny and the guitar there almost makes me think of surf waves and sunsets. I take a instant liking to it and I am in a very good mood right from the start. There is something about the overall texture of this score that just works for me; I listen to a cue like “A rough night”, lean, with a mean electric guitar repetitive motif and a tense atmosphere and I want to see the scene, I want to know what happens.

A cue like “Chased love” shows just why this score works so well: it’s sharp and alert and light enough to keep the pace going with quick changing motifs. It goes from grungy to mysterious with a short ambient vocal insert in the background and alternates with a fast percussion motif; it’s not even 2 minutes long but it makes me forget about all the generic thriller albums I’ve heard lately. Sometimes the way the guitar is used makes me think of Western scores. Once again I am not sure which composer wrote which cue but I know that James is very handy with the guitar and makes the most of it in cues like “Dwayne’s home movies” where there’s almost no other instrument to create a thick tension as I can bet that Frank had more to do with the gripping “Chip is down”.

There are different ways to put the chaos of a frantic movie into a score; I’ve recently heard Bear McCreary’s “Revolt” and it was a bit of a mess so I am happy to hear right away a composition that puts order in that chaos and gives me a coherent and rewarding listening experience. Part Western, part ambient and even part scary in the more suspenseful moments, “68 kill” is always fun and interesting to hear. The combination of these two composers is an experiment that works and there are even a few moments when the music goes crazy, good crazy that is; with a healthy dose of both guitar mayhem and synth melodies and a Twin Peaks like love theme this score is a very enjoyable standalone listen and only deepens my appreciation for both these composers.

Cue rating: 90 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 27 / 61

Album excellence: 43%

Highlights:
68 Thousand Dollars
Chip To The Rescue
A Rough Night
Chased Love
No Way, Not Again!
Chip Is Down
Holy Fuck!!
Love Theme / The Motel
Silver Guns
Chip’s Theme (Extended)
The Diary Of Ken McKenzie

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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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