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The Equalizer
  • Composed by Harry Gregson-Williams
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2014 / 52m

A remake of the popular 1980s tv series starring Edward Woodward, The Equalizer‘s filmmakers searched high and low in the hunt for an actor with a great physical resemblance to the late British star, eventually meeting great fortune when a casting agency sent them the details of Denzel Washington, who is barely distinguishable from Woodward (I have never seen them in the same room, which makes me wonder).  Director Antoine Fuqua hired Harry Gregson-Williams to write the score, but then seemingly told him not to actually write a score at all.  Says the composer, “Because the director wanted the action to be believable, the score had to be rooted in reality. We couldn’t have French horns announcing this character as if he were some super hero.”  Yes, this film really does sound so incredibly realistic (“A former black ops commando who faked his death for a quiet life in Boston comes out of his retirement to rescue a young girl and finds himself face to face with Russian gangsters”) that the only thing preventing viewers from imagining they were looking at a candidly-shot documentary would have been a score that injected some emotion or drama.

Of course, Gregson-Williams previously scored 76,937 indistinguishable action/thrillers starring Denzel Washington and directed by Tony Scott (with scores similarly hard to tell apart); and that’s the starting point for The Equalizer.  There certainly is a main theme this time round – surprisingly it does manage to bring a bit of emotion to the table when it’s heard and evidently piano and strings are far more “realistic” than French horns – who knew?  Unfortunately what it is not is memorable – it in one ear and straight out of the other.  But it’s like an oasis of film music brilliance in comparison with the bog-standard, resolutely bland  modern action/thriller music that surrounds it and makes up the majority of the album’s running time, sounding like it could come from any low-budget cop show tv score written by any Remote Control employee.  Gregson-Williams is a talented composer and there are hints of that here and there –  and I’m certain that the director’s aim of having a score that doesn’t make his movie any worse has been met; perhaps next time he’ll consider aiming for a score that makes it better.

Rating: * 1/2 | |

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  1. Tor (Reply) on Saturday 13 September, 2014 at 22:57

    Does the Stewart Copeland theme show up at all?

  2. Alonso (Reply) on Sunday 14 September, 2014 at 01:56

    Just out of curiosity, how have you heard this score before it has been released?

  3. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Sunday 14 September, 2014 at 22:41

    He was likely sent an advance copy, since he’s kind of a big wheel in the film score reviewing community 🙂

    It’s scores like this that make HGW one of the most frustrating composers out there today. We’ve heard that he’s capable of writing fantastic music, but all too often he’s asked to play musical interior decorator and bring out the sonic wallpaper.

  4. tiago (Reply) on Monday 15 September, 2014 at 02:53

    Gregson-Williams doesn’t deliver a truly great soundtrack since 2008’s Prince Caspian. He should do more movies that explore his talent in a better way than another action/thriller starring Denzel Washington. 🙂

  5. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Monday 15 September, 2014 at 10:54

    I thought Prince of Persia and Arthur Christmas were both pretty good, Tiago, but maybe that’s just me…

  6. Tor (Reply) on Monday 15 September, 2014 at 14:24

    Well, that stinks. Like I’ve said, it is – by far – the lesser of two evils to have an “Equalizer” movie with no score over an “Equalizer” movie whose score doesn’t quote the theme.

  7. Cindylover1969 (Reply) on Friday 3 October, 2014 at 19:13

    “Director Antoine Fuqua hired Harry Gregson-Williams to write the score, but then seemingly told him not to actually write a score at all.”

    Since Washington came on board the project before the director, is one of the producers and did films scored by H G-W before, it may not have been Antoine Fuqua’s idea to get him.

  8. Noko Ono (Reply) on Sunday 19 October, 2014 at 22:47

    First off, to answer someone’s question, the score was available on iTunes at least a few days before the movie was out. I found it by chance and downloaded it, though it’s possible the author received an advanced copy as well.

    Secondly, what is it that most people look for in a good soundtrack. Having listens to the score, but not seen the movie, I personally enjoy the dark, espionage-esque theme that is reminiscent of Spy Game. I’m assuming the movie has some darker, anti-hero undertones based on the soundtrack. If so, I feel it conveys that emotion well enough.

    But what say you?