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Attractive opening soon gives way to bland exercise in music which has nothing to say
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
JAMES NEWTON HOWARD
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Hollywood Records; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
A thriller from first-time director Scott Frank (who wrote screenplays like Out of Sight and Get Shorty), The Lookout is a hip heist movie without a big-name cast, and it quickly disappeared from cinemas despite having attracted excellent reviews. Frank did manage to entice James Newton Howard along to provide the score - Howard does tend to mix things up in terms of the kind of things he scores, and so for every King Kong there is a Freedomland, so it's no real surprise to see him employed here.
Unfortunately, this genre is not one which typically finds the composer at his most inspired. While the scores inevitably "work" in context, they rarely do anything more than that, and away from their films they have a tendency to be interminable, verging on unlistenable - it's hard to imagine that many folks were too excited by the likes of Freedomland or The Interpreter. Against the odds, The Lookout threatens to do anything but follow suit, with its stylish, attractive opening cue, "I Wake Up", a lovely guitar piece featuring real dramatic movement which is a joy to hear.
It's downhill from there. A long way downhill. The bulk of the rest of the score seems to be just drum loops with the odd guitar interjection. As usual, I'm sure it "works" just fine and fulfils the purpose for which it was written, but coming from a composer who's meant to be at or near the top of the A-list, you can't help but wonder how it can possibly end up being so uninspired. I freely admit that I haven't seen the film - and just maybe it is awful, though the reviews of the film suggest otherwise - but it's hard to imagine that this limp pursuit of blandness is the best score which could have been written to accompany it.
Most of it seems to exist solely so that there is some music there, as if the director felt music wasn't needed but wasn't quite brave enough to say so - even when it becomes slightly less bland, towards the end of "Heist II", a sexy and impressive piece of action music, there is still the sense that it seems good only by comparison with what's around it. John Powell has raised the bar for this type of score, and frankly Howard does not live up to his standards. If more of the score were like the electric guitar piece "Start at the End", full of mystery and done with great verve, then we'd be talking.
Strangely, given that it's a score by a well-known and popular composer, it has been available as an internet-only issue. If you're a Howard completist you might find just about enough here to justify the purchase - the three cues I've picked out above are all solid - for everyone else, it's hard to see anyone finding much reward from it.