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Soundtrack review: Sleight (Charles Scott IV – 2017)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Sleight (Charles Scott IV – 2017)



“Sleight” is a 2016 American science fiction drama film about a street magician in Los Angeles. The film is directed by J.D. Dillard, written by Dillard and Alex Theurer and stars Jacob Latimore, Seychelle Gabriel, Dulé Hill, Storm Reid, Sasheer Zamata and Michael Villar. A young street magician (Jacob Latimore) is left to care for his little sister after their parents passing and turns to illegal activities to keep a roof over their heads. When he gets in too deep, his sister is kidnapped and he is forced to use his magic and brilliant mind to save her. Charles Scott IV wrote the score and it’s his first such composition after contributing to a the music lot of Bad Robot productions like “Fringe” and “Star Trek into Darkness”.

The score opens with “Welcome home”, a dark textural cue that mixes electronic music with a vocal chanting motif; it introduces me to a tense atmosphere that feels like anything but a warm welcome home. There is a noise, a hiss effect over the cue that I see the composer carries into the next one “Mind trick”; it’s an interesting effect, like a static that sounds like a glitch. Maybe the composer wanted to suggest mind tricks or magic tricks with this. The first melodic cue is “Rex I” which is a piano and guitar duet that sounds entirely different from the way the score opened; it’s almost a psychedelic rock track from the 70s with the way the electric guitar and the bass wail on. It seems Rex occupies a special place in the story as his cues are always different.

As soon as I get used to a sound the composer switches it again but since “Get me out of here” is an awesome retro synth piece I cannot complain as I’ve already found my gem in this score. As soon as I find this one I am hit with something like “Chop chop” which doesn’t really count as music as it’s just an uncomfortable and abusive collection of sounds. This variety which has as single common point dark tension is hurting the standalone listening experience as I can’t make much sense of the music. I cling to the ambient electronic moments since those are my favourites.

“Sleight” is one of those scores where the musical experiments of the composer make me curious about the movie because they surely fit better there, in the context of the story, then in a standalone listen; I found pleasurable moments like those ambient cues but most of the time the score was uncomfortable to listen to. I am sure this was the intention of Charles Scott IV, to give a dense and tense texture that makes the listener feel at unease but without the movie to justify it it doesn’t work that well. What I am taking away from this score is the potential of this composer to write great dark electronic or ambient music and I hope he focuses more on that for his next score.

Cue rating: 72 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 6 / 39

Album excellence: 14%

Get me Out of Here
Two Keys

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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