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Soundtrack review: CHiPs (Fil Eisler – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: CHiPs (Fil Eisler – 2017)

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“CHiPs” is a 2017 American action comedy buddy cop film written and directed by Dax Shepard, based on the 1977–1983 television series of the same name created by Rick Rosner. The film stars Shepard as Officer Jon Baker and Michael Peña as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, with Rosa Salazar, Adam Brody and Vincent D’Onofrio in supporting roles. A rookie officer is teamed with a hardened pro at the California Highway Patrol, though the newbie soon learns his partner is really an undercover Fed investigating a heist that may involve some crooked cops. Fil Eisler wrote the score.

I remember the TV show from when I was a kid although I never really got into it. But buddy cop comedies are always my cup of tea. Right away the smooth and funky and very 70s reminiscent “Jon and Ponch” theme gets me into the setting of the show. I always welcome the funky electric guitar in a score as it brings back some nostalgia. I see the composer went for this sound as an homage maybe to the original and I like it. “Five dirty cops (AKA The bad guys theme” continues down the same path and that raw guitar and funky sound effects are quite enjoyable to listen to. The only downside to this type of music is the lack of emotional factor but maybe we will get that later in the score. For now in the opening cues, “CHiPs” is an investigative action score with no trace of comedy or playing around in it.

I do like the macho over the top retro theme that comes on every time the music is about Poncho; “Poncho arrives” is a spectacular jazzy piece very fit for this character. I was wrong about the comedic sounds as the “Bromance cue” take that funky 70s sound and put a smile on its face. It’s as if I am listening to a Quentin Tarantino movie soundtrack; the more I hear the more spectacular the music gets. Each cue tries to outfunk the previous one and even if the sound gets repetitive at some point I am still enjoying the score. It’s refreshing to have a composer bring this kind of rare sound in 2017 instead of taking the easy way out for a police movie. Plus, give me a “Random metal outburst” and I’ll take it any day of the week.

In the second half of the score Fil Eisler tones down the funkiness for a more modern investigative sound but even if the music is not as raw and exciting as it was in the beginning the 70s sound is still there even if lighter. The percussion comes as well and I get martial arts movie vibes from it.

“CHiPs” is a breath of fresh 70s air in today’s film music; we don’t get nearly enough nostalgic scores like this and I am happy every time I listen to one. Fil Eisler did a great job and managed to make this score memorable because of its overall sound. Bring on the funk!

Cue rating: 86 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 14 / 40

Album excellence: 36%

Highlights:
Opening Titles (Chips Theme)
Five Dirty Cops (Aka the Bad Guy Theme)
Ponch Arrives
Bromance, Pt. 1
Random Metal Outburst
Life Support
You’re Old as Fuck
An Eye for an Eye
End Titles (Chips Theme)

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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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