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Great early comedy score from Elfman
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1988 Universal Studios; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Most people probably have a film in their top ten which comes a little out of leftfield, a film not really regarded that highly by many people (or perhaps just forgotten). For me, that film is Midnight Run, one which can make me laugh endlessly. Martin Brest's finest film (yes, it's even better than Gigli) it features Robert de Niro as a bounty hunter escorting Charles Grodin across the country so he can pick up his return, encountering various obstacles along the way. The dialogue is king - with Mamet-level witticisms in the script, and various obviously-improvised quips from de Niro and Grodin (my favourite: "I've got two words for you - shut the fuck up!"), a fine supporting cast including Yaphet Kotto and Joe Pantoliano, the film's a complete blast.
This extends to its wonderful music, an early score composed by Danny Elfman. He was a very different film composer back in those days, and this easy-going score written mostly as instrumental rock music is just perfect for the film. Its highlight is the catchy, funky main theme - which owes more than a passing debt to Stevie Wonder's "Superstition", but never mind - it really is tremendous. There are a couple of other good themes too, including "Dorfler's Theme", a kind of comedy bluegrass-infused piece for de Niro's rival bounty hunter, and a melancholy theme (the closest the score comes to traditional film music) given its fullest presentation in "Walsh Frees the Duke".
The album is made up of mostly very short variations on these pieces, with some rocking, unconventional action music thrown in at times; Elfman plays it all with a smile on his face, but it's music with a definite edge, and that's just right for the movie. There's a great Elfman song here too, "Time to Believe", which makes me wish he had had more chances to provide, in Randy Newman style, songs for the less serious films he's scored over the years. It's a hard one to find these days, but it's wonderful - I'm not sure Elfman has ever be quite this laid back in a score again, and even though it is ultimately quite insubstantial I guess, it's so entertaining I don't care.