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American Assassin
  • Composed by Steven Price
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2017 / 52m

Based on the late Vince Flynn’s novel, American Assassin follows Mitch Rapp, initially working as a lone vigilante-type out to get revenge on the terrorists who killed his wife before being recruited into a CIA black ops team.  Starring Dylan O’Brien as Rapp with support from Michael Keaton and Sanaa Lathan, the film was intended to launch a series (the novel is actually the eleventh in the series, but it’s a prequel to it) but disappointing box office (and poor reviews) make that look rather unlikely.  Director Michael Cuesta turned to Steven Price for the score.  After his breakthrough with Gravity (which earned him an unlikely Oscar win, but not an undeserved one), Price has been surprisingly unprolific – this is only his fifth film score since, though there have been a couple of tv shows as well.  It’s fair to say that the musical apple has generally not fallen far from the Gravity tree in the projects that have come since – which may well be appropriate, when you think about it – but the composer hasn’t come close to hitting the same heights and I can only think that he keeps being told to write the same score over again – surely it can’t be his choice to offer such a limited range.

For American Assassin, we get the usual bag of tricks once more – lots of electronic textures, colour provided generally by the occasional solo (electric cello most commonly), rather a lot of chugging percussion, abrasive sounds for moments of heightened suspense.  With each score that does essentially the same thing, the sound inevitably becomes less and less fresh, and without any much-needed contrast from moments of light, this album is rather a chore to get through.  Highlights are few but the closing moments of “Mission Aborted” represent some impressive action music, “I Knew Your Family” is quite powerfully dramatic, the lengthy “Animal Spirits” has some life to it and the concluding “Katrina” is moving.  In between these, standard modern action movie sounds only slightly removed from the Remote Control one-size-fits-all template make for largely inoffensive but ultimately unmemorable listening.  Price’s next slated score at the time of writing is a family animation called Amusement Park (but another project or two will probably come around beforehand), which will pretty much guarantee that we’ll hear something genuinely different from him – which is no bad thing at all.

Only occasional excitement punctuates general tedium | |

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  1. Chris Caine (Reply) on Saturday 7 October, 2017 at 21:54

    The email has Benjamin Wallfisch on it.