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Soundtrack review: Small crimes (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Small crimes (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2017)

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“Small Crimes” is a 2017 crime/drama film directed by E. L. Katz. The screenplay was adapted by Katz and Macon Blair from the novel of the same name by Dave Zeltserman. The film stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Joe Denton, a former cop recently released from prison for attempted murder. Fresh off a six-year prison sentence for attempted murder he returns home looking for redemption but winds up trapped in the mess he left behind. Brothers Brooke and Will Blair wrote the score.

The opening cue “Joe’s free” sounds like a piece taken from a 70s police movie with the electric guitar and the smooth horn section. I am enjoying it as I like that retro sound, including the voice. Now usually I don’t include vocal songs in my review of the score but this is one of the cases where I should because they were written by the composers precisely for this score. I know form previous scores by them that Brooke and Will Blair have a distinctive and varied style with strange and mixed sounds. So far in “Small crimes” I am enjoying the 70s funkiness with the soft and hard percussion and the trumpets. For me this type of sound, quirky and ironic, is the most enjoyable for a chaos crime movie like this one where there’s a sense of inevitability and karma in the story. Sometimes the music gets too quiet like parts of “Manny must go”, “Anger eats the vessel” or “You’re not welcome here” and I am not enjoying it that much. Then there are whimsical romantic moments like “Date night” which I enjoy so this score is shaping up like a mixed affair. I am struggling to enjoy the tense moments because they are so quiet and don’t hold much ground on their own without the support of the images.

Brooke Blair and Will Blair write music that can be polarising as I don’t think there’s a middle way about enjoying it; the standalone listening experience of “Small crimes” suffers a bit because there are no melodies or emotional moments, just a tense and sharp texture that’s not comfortable to touch. I do enjoy the moments when the music gets funky like “I really do like you folks” and, for once, I enjoy the songs they wrote for the film because with the extra vocal element the music suddenly makes more sense. When the percussion kicks in I am having fun, when the mood settles into am ambient place like in “Terrible things” I am enjoying it but these moments were a bit too few and too far apart.

“Small crimes” is the type of score that for the most part works much better in the context of the movie as support for the on screen images; it’s a textural score that isn’t the most fulfilling of standalone listens but I did find some moments I liked. Special note for the last track “Taurus!” which is a commercial jingle wrote by the composers and it’s a lot of fun. What did you enjoy about it?

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 8 / 33

Album excellence: 25%

Highlights:
Joe’s Free
I Really Do Like Your Folks
Terrible Things
Taurus!

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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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