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Soundtrack review: Proud Mary (Fil Eisler – 2018)

Film scores

Soundtrack review: Proud Mary (Fil Eisler – 2018)

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“Proud Mary” is a 2018 American action thriller film directed by Babak Najafi, from a screenplay written by John S. Newman and Christian Swegal. The film stars Taraji P. Henson, Billy Brown, Danny Glover, Neal McDonough, Xander Berkeley, and Margaret Avery. Mary is a successful hitwoman working for an organized crime family in Boston. However, her life is completely shifted when she meets a young boy whose path she crosses when a professional hit goes wrong and she leaves the boy orphaned. Fil Eisler wrote the score.

I’ve enjoyed Fil’s output from 2017 as both the electric smooth 70s style “C.h.I.P.S” and his emotional contributions for “Newtown” were quite impressive; a composer with such a range is exciting to listen to. Excitement is what I get right from the start as Fil Eisler does now waste time with quiet intros or setting up the mood but goes all in from the opening cue “Not part of the plan”; I feels as if I walked in the beginning of a Bond movie which always starts with a monster chase scene. It’s only when we finally meet the main character that the music takes a breather. “I’m Mary” goes piano melodic and I just love a cue like that. It also lasts as long as the first three action cues put together so it balances the mood right away.

I am often picky and fussy about thriller scores because there’ve been quite a few in the past years when the composers, on their own or under the influence of producers and directors have gone the good old “generic dark electronic” route; “Proud Mary” is far from that; with the subtle orchestral inserts, be they piano or cello and with the exciting pace of the action pieces I get a score that works very well as a standalone listening experience. The music is honest, I believe the emotional parts and I feel connected to the action ones. The balance between them is just right as it gives a multidimensional feel to the music and character. Since the story evolves around a single main character the music is never busy and even more subtle motifs get a chance to develop.

I need to remark “Danny’s memories” because it’s hauntingly melodic and it’s the closes thing to a theme from “Proud Mary”; it has that dark sensitivity I usually associate with the music of James Newton Howard and this particular cue makes me think of “I am legend”. I can safely call this “Danny’s theme” as it poignantly comes back in “Danny at the river”, just as beautiful and as a solo piano variation in the end titles. During the second half of the score the balance shifts towards the quiet and the cello and piano are featured more and there’s a string of cues starting with this one that turn it into a proper drama score. Fil Eisler can go really deep even when writing minimalistic.

“Proud Mary” is a solid action score that doesn’t settle just for thrills no matter how well the composer writes them; the emotional depth is what made this score better and I will actually give the movie a check to experience the music in context as well. Fil Eisler continues to make himself a name.

Cue rating: 88 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 21 / 42

Album excellence: 51%

Highlights:
Not Part of the Plan
The Walter Hit
I’m Mary
Uncle’s Office
One Rule
Danny’s memories
Tom mourns
That money is your freedom
Danny at the river
Reunited
Danny and Mary’s theme (end title)

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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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