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Soundtrack review: Comrade detective (Joe Kraemer – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: Comrade detective (Joe Kraemer – 2017)

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“COMRADE DETECTIVE” is fictional gritty 1980’s Cold War Romanian police procedural steeped in Communist propaganda. Detectives Gregor Anghel (Channing Tatum dubbed for Romanian actor Florin Persic Jr) and Iosif Baciu (Joseph Gordon-Levitt dubbed for Corneliu Ulici) investigate murder of a fellow comrade in this action-packed and blood-soaked first season. Under the iron fist of Captain Covaci (Nick Offerman dubbed for Adrian Paduraru), the pair of red sleuths must unravel a counter-revolutionary plot against the Romanian state by what-else-but the greatest enemy: Capitalism. Joe Kraemer wrote the score.

I find it quite ironic that even if I am actually from Romania, I’ve lived those times first hand and I know the actors I am unable to watch the show as it’s not available in…Romania. This is wrong, right? Anyway in the 80s there were a few very good Romanian movies and the scores were mostly electronic so the premises are good. The main theme is waltz like with a strong horn section and much richer than I would have expected. I think the composer drew influences from how Russia was actually perceived in the 80s, powerful, heavy. The music is serious in the first few cues, aggressive to borderline horror in “Bust gone wrong” and very sad in “Mourning”. I must admit I was expecting something different, either more playful or more retro but Joe Kraemer took this seriously and went full orchestral. The playfulness is given by some jazzy inserts with the soft percussion and bass that give the score a groovy sound.

It’s strange to listen to a cue called “Streets of Bucharest”; I imagine it’s nothing special for people living in New York or Paris or London or whatever but for me it’s quite special. The mystery and smoothness in the music is a bit exaggerated though if you consider real life. I am having fun hearing all these cues with local titles. The music gives me the time to make all these considerations; as I listen to it I get an 80s police movie vibe, it’s a very familiar and comfortable sound for me and I enjoy the abundance of brass instruments which I guess add the noir element to the police investigations.

The score for “Comrade detective” is harmless and mostly textural; the texture is rich and orchestral though and manages to capture and evoke the gritty darkness of the grey 80s in Romania. I imagine the story, the case they follow is serious as well; since I haven’t seen the show (did I mention that?) I imagined it was a satire, a parody, especially with that gimmick of famous American actors dubbed for famous Romanian actors but there’s none of that in the music. While it doesn’t really bite, the score does set a tense and dark atmosphere sometimes even taking a peak into horror territory. With the elegant orchestral passages that Joe Kraemer always presents in his scores, there are enough enjoyable moments in this score to make it worth the listen even if for me it would have worked even better in a shorter presentation.

Cue rating: 75 / 100

Highlights:
Explosive investigation
Resolution
Comrade detective 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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