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Artwork copyright (c) 1988 Hemdale Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Abrasive all-electronic oddity

The late 1980s were probably the weakest period in Jerry Goldsmith's career, with such forgettable scores as Rent-a-Cop, Warlock and the rejected Alien Nation being composed during the last two years of the decade.  Another one to add to that list is Criminal Law, the composer's second all-electronic score after Runaway.  Gary Oldman and Kevin Bacon starred in Martin Campbell's legal thriller but it's a film that's now forgotten by most and featured one of the least-discussed scores in Goldsmith's long career - and it's not hard to see why.

I'm sure there was some deep and meaningful reason for going all-electronic, but here Goldsmith did something very strange because many of the cues sound almost like they were written as he would usually write and then electronic representations of real instruments were used.  Today's synthesisers are alarmingly accurate at simulating certain real instruments, but 1988's most certainly were not.  While the bleeps and whirrs are actually not that different from what the composer was inserting (with varying degrees of success) into a lot of scores at the time, I can't see any particular advantage to using synthesised sounds for the rest of the music, except of course that it would be cheaper and possibly add an abrasive feel to the movie that was felt to be dramatically justified.

The most frustrating thing is that it is easy to imagine just how much better things would sound with an orchestra.  A track like "The Body" could be a terrific piece of action music were it performed by real instruments; alas, it isn't, so it's something of an embarrassment - and there are a few more cues like that, notably the all-too-brief "Hostage", whose 46 seconds are easily the best on the album.  Sadly, several of the tracks would probably sound limp and dull however they were performed.  Goldsmith has complained in the past that people collect his scores as bottlecaps and that some of them should never have been released.  I can't think of many that shouldn't have been released, but if pushed then this would be a prime candidate.  It's unique in Goldsmith's filmography but it's not a style for which the composer had any flair and through the whole album one is forced to think of a three-star Michelin chef trying to make cheese on toast.  Even the great Jerry Goldsmith can have a bad day at the office sometimes.

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  1. The Victim (2:29)
  2. The Body (3:21)
  3. Start Remembering (1:30)
  4. About Last Night (1:24)
  5. The Closet (2:29)
  6. The Garden Pavillion (3:15)
  7. The Drive (1:13)
  8. Avenger (1:13)
  9. The Game (1:58)
  10. The Clinic (2:12)
  11. Poor Ben (4:37)
  12. Hostage (:46)
  13. Burnout (1:13)
  14. End Title (2:44)