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Soundtrack review: Wheelman (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Wheelman (Brooke Blair and Will Blair – 2017)

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“Wheelman” is an American action thriller film written and directed by Jeremy Rush. The film stars Frank Grillo, Garret Dillahunt, Shea Whigham, and Caitlin Carmichael. Frank Grillo (Kingdom, Captain America: Civil War) stars as the wheelman, a getaway driver thrust into a high stakes race-to-survive after a bank robbery goes terribly wrong. With a car full of money and his family on the line, the clock is ticking to figure out who double-crossed him and the only person he can trust: his thirteen-year-old daughter. All reasons to think fast and drive faster. Brothers Brooke and Will Blair wrote the score.

So far this year I’ve already heard two scores from Brooke Blair and Will Blair and both of them had a very cold texture, almost emotionless. “Wheelman” starts the same way with dark, percussion heavy “Titles” that leave little place for hope. At least the cue is louder livelier than I was used to. The dark and minimalistic Blair sound returns in “The job” and I have got to hand it to them that the brothers are good at what they do, at this sound they seem to specialise in; there is nothing superficial or generic about the music and in the context of the movie it works even better as it helps the viewer and the listener get into the dense and tense world of the main character. There are burst of frantic energy as “The job” goes on and the cue keeps growing on me. These days in film music there aren’t a lot of composers who carve their own sonic niche and stick with it so I admire what Brooke and Will Blair are doing, especially since they are promoting their sound through their own record label Wayfind records so they have a bit of extra freedom.

Even if there are no emotional cues and motifs in this score the music affects me and makes me feel the suspense, the menace, the tension of the story; the dense texture builds up every now and then into frantic, almost suffocating pieces of music that chill me to the bones. Other times the music gets quiet but still menacing and in a cue like “The tunnel” I recapture the claustrophobic feeling I had when listening to Johan Johannsson’s “Sicario” a couple of years ago. “Wheelman” reminds me a lot of that score. I am just immersed in this dark atmosphere built from minimalistic sounds but thick as it rarely loosens its grip on me. I am so into this score that I am starting to discover the emotional undertone that the composers cleverly weaved into the fabric of the score; there’s a motif in the middle of “Clay’s dead” that even if it’s not melodic or warm it’s as emotional as this score gets.

“Wheelman” is my favourite Brooke Blair and Will Blair score so far; their sound is more developed here, more meaningful and the subtle tonal and mood variations make it easier to enjoy outside the context of the film. The dark ambient music works even better when you are watching the movie.

Cue rating: 79 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 17 / 42

Album excellence: 40%

Highlights:
The Job
The Tunnel
Clay’s Dead
Mom

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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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