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Top notch, non-stop action score
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1998 Paramount Pictures; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
I always love over-enthusiastic liner notes, and they are rarely better than when just a little promotional blurb about some new film or other. Hard Rain does include a little interview with the composer, but it's the picture it paints of a film of unprecedented quality that is so entertaining. Better still, we learn that "it takes place in real time, spanning one night from sunset until dawn." For this to be true, either the film is ten hours long (I checked - it isn't) or there was an unusually short night when the storm came to the midwestern USA. Mikael Salomon's forgettable action movie stars Christian Slater (I remember him!) and Morgan Freeman - it's tempted to say he should have known better, but given that he's gone on to star in things like Under Suspicion and High Crimes, I guess he shouldn't.
Christopher Young had established himself as a first-rate film composer by that time, but hadn't really tackled an all-out-action film before; and he produced one of the most balls-to-the-wall, breathless efforts the genre received in quite a while, a position it would hold probably until the same composer's The Core came along. With a wonderful main theme (admittedly rather similar to Bruce Broughton's Shadow Consipiracy - and almost identical to Sean Callery's 24 theme which would follow a while later) the opening title cue sets things off on a great foot. A neat addition is the harmonica music used for Freeman's villain, a highly-unusual but very effective sound in an action score, adding an extra dimension.
Otherwise, the action really doesn't let up at all. Imagine a whole score which is like "Bishop's Countdown" from Aliens and you're getting somewhere close. When the music is this well-composed, with such florid orchestration, there's no reason to complain about that - it's outlandish, but never passes over into anything which is simply over-the-top. It's huge, but isn't like those scores which come along every week these days (especially for computer games) for 120-piece orchestras and just sound like someone's wet dream-fulfilment. At the time a few commentators described this score as being like Chris Young doing Media Ventures, a point-of-view I found puzzling at best, downright inexplicable at worst. Nothing produced from that entitity has ever approached this level of orchestral sophistication - and given that "sophistication" is probably the last thing Young was aiming for, you get the idea. It's beautifully-played, well-written music that attempts nothing more than to be exciting; and succeeds, admirably.
There's nothing earth-shattering here, just three-quarters-of-an-hour's worth of wonderful action music. It's a score nobody ever talks about, but they should - it's at or above the finest action scores of the last few years (things like M:I III and Live Free or Die Hard) and it seems a pity that with only one or two exceptions, Young hasn't really returned to this genre since. I guess he generally prefers more cerebral music, but he's so good at this it's a shame that far lesser composers usually get the big summer action films. Finally, a word about the track titles - originally Young had used his typical crazy titles but the humourless people at the record company told him nobody would buy the album if he did that because nobody would remember which scenes the music was from, so he retaliated with the dullest track titles he could think of - bravo!