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A Walk Among the Tombstones
  • Composed by Carlos Rafael Rivera
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2014 / 30m

Written and directed by Scott Frank,  A Walk Among the Tombstones is an action thriller starring Liam Neeson as a private investigator investigating a woman’s kidnap and murder, hired by her husband (who happens to be a drug lord).  The film has been described in early reviews as being particularly dark and edgy and the same could be said of its score, by a composer new to me (and writing his first film score), Carlos Rafael Rivera, described in the press release as a protégé of Randy Newman, who is thanked in the album credits.  But (in the unlikely event you thought it was a possibility), don’t expect music that sounds like Newman’s – this is bleak, gritty stuff, reminding me at times of Marco Beltrami (think In the Electric Mist in particular).  The opening cue, “Main Street”, opens with a passage of dark strings and distant choir before the main theme begins – a deliberately-paced, somewhat mean and moody and very serious melody – it’s nothing spectacular, but it’s certainly got a depth of character to it.

It forms the basis of much of the relatively brief score, whose mood alternates between varying shades of black.  There are occasional Herrmannesque passages for strings, sometimes a choir, but mostly the score is performed by a small instrumental ensemble and has a more directly personal feel as a result – as a listener, it feels like being part of something.  Indeed, that depth of character I mentioned is very important and those things come together to create a rather immersive experience.  All of that is very positive and I’ve little doubt that it will function very well as a film score, but as an album the thing that prevents it being one I can imagine wanting to return to particularly often is that it is in fact so successful at creating a bleak atmosphere, it quickly just becomes a bit tiring – it is deliberately joyless (to put it bluntly, it’s music to slit your wrists by) and that’s something that requires the listener to be in a particular frame of mind to really appreciate.  It’s an impressive debut though, one that leaves me intrigued to hear more from Rivera, and there’s no doubting the impressiveness of the composition and dramatic vision.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Carlos Rafael Rivera (Reply) on Sunday 14 September, 2014 at 06:53

    First review for my film music writing – ever. Tx for the encouraging review!

  2. Movie lover (Reply) on Monday 15 September, 2014 at 14:41

    I love this score. Exactly the right kind of subtle, melodic and mournful music for this fascinating film. I hope we´ll hear more from Rivera!

  3. znailz (Reply) on Tuesday 21 October, 2014 at 09:51

    The composer found this review – what a lovely thing! Haven’t heard the score yet but certainly will after reading this.

  4. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Friday 31 October, 2014 at 04:52

    I watched the trailer twice while viewing 2 movies last night. A very bleak melody, intoned by a female vocalist, domimated the soundtrack. You make no mention of this mesmerizing vocal James – is it not included on the album? The two movies I saw were ‘Annabelle’ – about a demon- possessed doll that terrorises a young couple. It’s billed as a prequel to ‘The Conjuring’. Both movies featured horror scores [by JOSEPH BISHARA] that are of the ambient variety, with musical ‘stings’ accompanying Satanic triumphs. It works in the movie – but I wouldn’t bother buying an album. I then saw ‘The Immigrant’ [with Marion Cotillard, Joaquin Phoenix & Jeremy Renner] a sepia-tinted melodrama about a Polish immigrant who, to survive in New York circa 1920, daily debases herself as a prostitute. CHRISTOPHER SPELMAN’S score is just boring – it doesn’t create the Jewish atmosphere of the neighbourhood the Cotillard character [Ewa] is taken to. Surely he’s familiar with Klezmer music- those passionate Yiddish sounds from Eastern Europe that would have permeated a Jewish suburb. Also absent was a suitably emotionally haunting theme for Ewa- a religious Catholic who, in the confessional, admits to hating herself for demeaning her body, just to survive. I can only imagine the magnificent music GEORGES DELERUE, JERRY GOLDSMITH or MAURICE JARRE would have created for this movie. Surely new film composers and directors refer to their brilliant compositions as points of reference? Or are they too arrogant and full of pride to acknowledge the masterworks of other composers?

  5. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Friday 31 October, 2014 at 11:16

    Andre, it’s very rare indeed for music from a film’s trailer to appear on its soundtrack album.

  6. Poze (Reply) on Wednesday 21 January, 2015 at 17:51

    The chances are you want to watch this movie because of Liam Neeson, who’s popularity skyrocketed the last 4-5 years because of such movies as Taken and Taken 2.

    Well, Neeson is the only reason that this movie doesn’t suck entirely.

    In this movie he is a traumatized ex-cop who hunts down a couple of psychopath killers. The pace of the movie is pretty slow. Don’t expect Taken-like scenes in this one. No big surprises script-wise either. Pretty much standard stuff.

    The music could be more suitable for a haunted house horror film, and although there are some scenes in a cemetery the title is misleading.

    The narrative is somehow difficult to grasp. There aren’t constant flashbacks as in other movies but for the first half of the movie many viewers are confused about the timeline of some events.

    Also the movie is rather long. This simple premise could have been resolved in far less time than its 1h:54m running time.

    Check it out only if you are a hardcore Liam Neeson fan.