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The Rhythm Section
  • Composed by Steve Mazzaro
  • Remote Control Productions / 48m

In what has turned out to be the only action-thriller produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli to be released during 2020, The Rhythm Section stars Blake Lively as a drug-addicted sex worker, her life having fallen apart following the death of her entire family in a plane crash. When evidence emerges that the crash may not have been an accident, she sets out for revenge.

The film was scored by Steve Mazzaro, with a prominent credit for Hans Zimmer as score producer – and not long after working on this, the pair went off to do the new Bond film. With many people eagerly awaiting the now long-delayed opportunity to hear what that score sounds like, perhaps some may view The Rhythm Section as an opportunity to get a sneak peak.

Steve Mazzaro

Well, whatever you may expect this score to sound like, I doubt that it sounds like it (and I’d be amazed if No Time to Die sounds much like it). It’s an unusual blend of styles which proves to be really rather effective and (I admit, rather to my surprise) extremely entertaining. From the opening “Willpower”, with its classy, classical violin solo, this is actually full of surprises.

In the second cue, “My Old Life”, we return to a sound heard in countless film scores in the early part of this century, with Gladiator-vocals provided by a voice which sounds distinctly like Lisa Gerrard’s, which is almost certainly because it is Lisa Gerrard’s. It’s a nice variant on that sound, and benefits from it having lost its ubiquity.

Tension appears in “Tracking”, which is perhaps more like I expected the score to be – pretty gritty suspense music dotted with the old HORN OF DOOM but accompanied by a synth percussion effect which sounds just like the one Jerry Goldsmith used prominently in Hollow Man. If the whole score did sound like that then it would wear out its welcome in fairly short order – but it doesn’t, so it doesn’t. In “Scotland” the main theme as heard in the opening track is reprised – it has a haunting quality, strained and desperate but seeming to rise like a little ray of sunshine breaking through the mist on an ice-cold morning. I assume the setting remains Celtic for “Teach Me to Fight”, a fun little Irish jig.

After this we return to a much bleaker soundscape in the brief “Shoot Me” before Mazzaro combines that distinctive violin sound from earlier in the score with Gerrard’s vocals in “Take the Contract”, a stirring and dramatic piece – then comes the first real action music, “Madrid”, which is a bit like “Mombasa” but with guitars. I really like it. “Regret” conveys just what its title says – Gerrard’s voice taking on a mournful tone now, a distant sampled choir giving it a bit of an elegiac feel. “Marseille” is not “Mombasa” with accordions – in fact it’s got the sound of a middle-eastern street market, with that string riff from Britney Spears’s “Toxic” over a load of percussion – it actually develops into a pretty decent piece of suspense music.

There’s more intense action in “Hunting” – again heavy on the percussion (and sounding like you-know-what) and pretty effective. The action continues into “U-17” where the sampled strings have a certain stirring impact (I suspect that there’s not much in the way of live performance in this score, except presumably some percussion, a small number of soloists and Gerrard’s vocals, though it doesn’t matter at all).

The final two cues are probably the best. “Stephanie Patrick” captures the main character’s grit and determination really well – and then the lengthy “Journey” is not the 350th variant on Inception‘s “Time” but instead a pretty introspective character piece, reprising the score’s main melodic material into a very fine finale.

There’s nothing ground-breaking here but The Rhythm Section does what it sets out to do and it does it well. The unusual mix of flavours makes it pretty distinctive and it’s far from the turgid sound which is so often heard in modern films like this one. I feel a bit sorry for Steve Mazzaro – he’s credited after Zimmer in the film and you can barely even see his name on the album cover – but the fact that Zimmer has so openly credited him with doing so much on Bond suggests he might be the next rising star to come out of Remote Control Productions, who have released this album on their in-house label several months after the film. It’s well worth hearing.

Rating: *** 1/2

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  1. Marco Ludema (Reply) on Sunday 11 October, 2020 at 08:37

    To be curious, have you tried the earlier released Bond track “Gun Barrel”?