- Composed by Marco Beltrami
- Silva Screen / 2015 / 64m
An action thriller from Taken director Pierre Morel, The Gunman stars Sean Penn as an assassin whose murder of a Congolese minister comes back to haunt him when he returns to the Congo years later. The film has been a disaster both critically and commercially. Far from a disaster is Marco Beltrami’s smart score. Beltrami is a prolific film composer with a distinctive style but you’re never too sure what you’re going to get – his action/thriller scores span the whole range from subtle electronic affairs through gritty percussive tests of endurance all the way up to glorious orchestral blowouts. The Gunman is generally at the subtler end of the scale, but with some bursts of excitement and a very stylish feel throughout which makes it a compelling listen. What I like is that there’s a human side never far away, the composer managing to make the music feel as if it’s really about something that matters rather than just being yet another set of musical wallpaper for a routine thriller.
There is some real melody in the early moments of the album before the gripping tension begins to become all-consuming. “Village People” is a brilliant action track and the score in a nutshell – layers of percussion, bursts of brass, swirling strings – it’s completely gripping. The intricate composition is typical of the score – there is so much going on, even in the quieter moments, the great pace of the percussion providing the energy but there are real brains behind it, subtle tweaks (both acoustic and electronic) carefully adjusting the mood as required. Some of those tweaks do take the music into suspense material that probably fulfills an important role within the film but doesn’t do much on the album – and this could really do with 15-20 minutes chopping out, which is my only real complaint. The Goldsmithian action track “Fish in a Barrel” is really first rate. Also I love the contrast the piano theme which crops up throughout provides to the tense, often nerve-wracking action/suspense and that The Gunman is a score that’s unmistakably Beltrami’s but stands apart from others he has done in the genre in the recent past (that there’s more than one way to skin a cat doesn’t seem to have occurred to some of the decision-makers behind film music in recent years). It’s not destined to be considered a classic but there’s plenty of meat on this bone that is very easy to savour.
Rating: *** 1/2