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Artwork copyright (c) 2004 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Uncomfortable mix of styles gels into a bit of a mish-mash


Harry Gregson-Williams has really come into his own recently, with a host of impressive scores for a variety of different films in different genres, including Veronica Guerin, Passionada, The Rundown and Sinbad, and he has a potentially huge one coming up in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  His latest effort is for one of his biggest movies yet (the Shrek blockbusters excepted), Tony Scott's Man on Fire starring Denzel Washington playing against type as a vigilante determined to avenge the kidnapping of a young girl he was guarding. 

The resulting score is an odd mixture of ideas.  It has proved very popular amongst fans, and the delayed release of the soundtrack album (which is finally, rather oddly, coming out months after the movie itself) has led to much anticipation.  Unfortunately the final result seems just too mixed up to be entirely satisfying, with there being too many competing styles to allow any cohesion, particularly with the tracks generally being very short (there are no fewer than 13 of them under ninety seconds long).  The action music is highly-unsavoury.  I'm sure many younger listeners will enjoy the heavy-duty electronics which dominate, but they're too much for my ears.  I've nothing against modern electronic percussion being used to beef up action music in movies like this (John Powell has been doing it particularly well recently) but just repeating a drum loop with electric guitar riffs going over the top doesn't do it for me - I don't see the point dramatically, or musically.

Elsewhere, things fare rather better.  There are some vaguely hispanic influences (the movie was shot in Mexico) and easily the best moments on the album are two songs, "Ina Palabra" and "Angel Vengador", sung by Carlos Parela and Gabriel Gonzalez respectively, which are both absolutely lovely.  The more poignant sections of the actual score are nice as well, especially "Bullet Tells the Truth" and "You Are Her Father", in which Gregson-Williams employs the services of the Seattle Session Orchestra to rather more telling effect.  There is a nice, if simple, piano theme that crops up now and again and some pleasant writing for strings.  Unfortunately, there is also a lot of rather interminable suspense music, frequently featuring a little acoustic guitar passage which is quite nice for the first time its heard, but by its nine thousandth repetition it has become more than a little tiresome.  

The lengthy "The End" introduces the wailing voice of Lisa Gerrard into proceedings.  Not a day goes by when she doesn't provide additional music and vocals to a score, and the lack of any variation whatsoever in the way she is employed has become clichéd and irritating.  What seemed fresh and inventive (if entirely inappropriate) with Gladiator now seems anything but, and I hope the fad can end sometime soon.  It's a reasonable enough piece of music, but the Gerrard sections are entirely interchangeable with every other film score on which she has performed, and the Gregson-Williams sections suffer the same problems as the rest of the score.

This is a disappointing effort, an hour-long album which features numerous different ideas, none of which seem to blend together particularly well and some of which (namely, the heavy-duty electronics which make up the action and much of the suspense material) are downright unlistenable.  I'm sure fans of the composer's work for the director in the past (Spy Game and Enemy of the State) will love it, but just like those two scores, it seems strangely unambitious and will not be many people's cup of tea.

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  1. Ina Palabra Carlos Parela (1:19)
  2. Main Title (3:03)
  3. Taxi (:53)
  4. El Paso (:41)
  5. Creasy's Room (:34)
  6. The Rave (4:23)
  7. Pita's Sorrow (1:47)
  8. Nightmare (1:06)
  9. Bullet Tells the Truth (1:36)
  10. Followed (1:02)
  11. Smiling (:48)
  12. You Are Her Father (1:43)
  13. No Mariachi (:43)
  14. The Drop (2:38)
  15. Angel Vengador Gabriel Gonzalez (1:22)
  16. You Betrayed Me (1:12)
  17. She's Dead (:43)
  18. The Crime Scene (:57)
  19. Pita's Room (1:48)
  20. Gonzalez (1:37)
  21. La Niña (1:49)
  22. Creasy's Art is Death (:54)
  23. The Voice (2:59)
  24. Sanchez Family (4:43)
  25. The Rooftop (5:07)
  26. The End (9:34)
  27. Man on Fire (3:41)