Latest reviews of new albums:
Bad Boys For Life
  • Composed by Lorne Balfe
  • Sony Classical / 40m

I usually start these things with a little comment about the film, but to be honest the only thing I keep thinking about Bad Boys For Life is that I can’t believe they didn’t save the title for the next instalment, which they could have called Bad Boys Four Life. Oh well, maybe Mr Bruckheimer will contact me for clearly-needed advice next time he needs to name a film. Because I’m annoying, back in the 1990s when all the kids used to say Media Ventures power anthem scores were the greatest thing since sliced bread, I didn’t like them; but as that sound has morphed over time into the generally joyless modern Remote Control action sound which the kids now say is the greatest thing since sliced bread (find a kid and ask him or her – I guarantee this is the case), I started to rather miss it. Well, here it is, back (but probably not for life). Mark Mancina has long since flown the nest and so Lorne Balfe takes the musical reins for the third instalment, with much excitement from people who were kids in 1995 over whether he would bring back Mancina’s theme. Fear not – he doesn’t just bring it back, virtually the whole score is based on it in some way or other.

It’s a typical Media Ventures power anthem of the period, its distinguishing feature at the time being the Latin sound which went around it. Balfe gives it a full-on airing in the titular opening cue, and it’s a really punchy, dynamic arrangement. After that, it’s mostly action, and the action is mostly based around that theme – sometimes it’s heard in full, other times the composer takes fragments out of it and turns them into something else. The action’s done with aplomb, a satisfying mixture of the 90s sound and more of a Dark Knight-era Hans Zimmer. We even get the once-ubiquitous choir for when things really need to sound epic. The softer moments – and there are a few – are also handled well, though to be honest you just want the action to come back. At 40 minutes the album is just the perfect length for this type of music. I wouldn’t want all action movies to be scored like this again, but it is nice to go on a trip back like this one and it’s a satisfying if ultimately disposable modern take on a sound from a quarter of a century ago.

Rating: *** | |

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  1. Hawkins (Reply) on Wednesday 12 February, 2020 at 09:37

    Southall’s comments about the youth of today reminded me of this quote from his review of “The Dark Knight Rises”:
    “Part of me wonders if I’ve just turned into my dad and I’m having some sort of reaction against the music all the kids are enjoying”
    At least, I think that’s what he means by this talk about “the kids”.

    I’d be curious to know how old James Southall actually is, and how long he has been writing film music reviews. I presume he must be in his late 40s or early 50s, since his review of “Krull” mentioned seeing that film in the cinemas. I understand if this information might be too personal, but I think it really would help put some of his reviews (both of old scores and new ones) in perspective.

    I’ve also noticed how scarce advertising is on Movie Wave, so I guess all the reviews on Movie Wave are done on a voluntary basis, with Southall getting little, if any, revenue from this project.

    I mention these things because one of the things I really appreciate about this site is it’s independence from corporate interests, and though I might not always agree with the reviews, I can respect that they come from the heart and not from commercial considerations.

    That said, I do understand the recent criticism that JS tends to be just phoning it in when it comes to reviewing modern scores, and his takes on Remote-Control/Media-Ventures material in particular often comes across as lazy, predictable and formulaic. Perhaps JS feels obliged to review these scores just to generate clicks and remain relevant. It’s a pity, because he’s a better writer when covering material that he’s really passionate about and I thought he would’ve generated a large enough audience already that he wouldn’t have to bother with clickbaity coverage of recent scores just because they are new.

    I’ll end this already overly long post by saying I think JS overestimates the appeal of film music to the youth of today. Most kids these days aren’t interested in instrumental music, and I’m sure the “Songs From & Inspired By” albums associated with modern blockbusters sell more than the instrumental score… and I think that was generally true of 90s blockbusters too. Didn’t the song album for the original “Bad Boys” sell more than Mark Mancina’s score?