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Soundtrack review: The foreigner (Cliff Martinez – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: The foreigner (Cliff Martinez – 2017)


“The Foreigner” is an upcoming English-language action thriller film film directed by Martin Campbell and written by David Marconi, based on the 1992 novel The Chinaman by Stephen Leather. The British-Chinese co-production stars Jackie Chan, Pierce Brosnan, Charlie Murphy, Michael McElhatton, Orla Brady, Liu Tao and Katie Leung. Quan (Jackie Chan) is a humble London businessman whose long-buried past erupts in a revenge-fuelled vendetta when his teenage daughter dies in a senseless act of politically motivated terrorism. His relentless search to find the terrorists leads to a cat-and-mouse conflict with a British government official Hennessy (Pierce Brosnan), whose own past may hold the clues to the identities of the elusive killers. I can’t wait to see this movie. The music was wrote by Cliff Martinez.

Cliff Martinez is a special kind of composer with a rather unique writing style. His scores for Nicholas Winding-Refn movies have become cult while my favourite remains “First snow” from a few years back. The hypnotic electronic vibe I was expecting comes from the first cue “Landscape gardener” and I can almost see the purple neon lights flickering in my eyes. He tones it down immediately after in “Spit it out” which goes into uncomfortable quiet thriller mode where the sharp electronic pulses of Martinez still pierce through every now and then.

If you are a Cliff Martinez fan you know his particular brand of pointy dark electronic music. There are no melodies in his scores as the music is both the hammer and the bottle it hits and dissolves almost into grounded glass. I am just fascinated by the pace and energy of a cue like “He jumped off the roof” and I am glad to listen to a thriller score that’s not generic quiet and suspenseful as a lot of the movies from this genre get lately. The music of “The foreigner” stings and electrocutes, preys quietly or jumps suffocatingly loud under the hands of the composer. A cue like “I wouldn’t count on it” is industrial and addictive and I am always impressed by how good Martinez’s music can be without almost ever having an emotional component or, better yet, I am impressed by how much I like his music even when it’s devoid of normal emotion. “Daughter’s room” is the emotional core and motivation of the story and it’s dreamy in parts but still smouldering with electronic music.

The tension in “The foreigner” is relentless and very well done with Cliff Martinez’s pulsating and electrifying cues; this is the best thing about the score, the constant almost robotic like pace and the sparks that fly from the action pieces. When I imagine a story about two special agents doing everything in their power to defeat the other one, unable to make the slightest mistake, often this is how I imagine the sound. “The foreigner” is the sound of precise hits and high body count; it’s the sound of loud suspense, of preying and stalking in the dark and is the sound of not caring if you yourself are hit. “The foreigner” is the Cliff Martinez sound when it doesn’t sleep and dream. And it’s also the score that includes one of the most sublime 80s synth reminiscent cues in “Observe and report”.

Cue rating: 84 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 46

Album excellence: 36%

Landscape Gardener
He Jumped Off the Roof
I Wouldn’t Count on It
Daughter’s Room
Observe and Report

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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