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Artwork copyright (c) 1990 Studio Canal; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Powerful, aggressive action score


Director Peter Hyams has been curiously eclectic when picking composers for his movies, going through a whole range of them over the course of his career, working with Jerry Goldsmith, John Barry, David Shire, Mark Isham, John Debney and David Arnold, amongst others.  His longest relationship with a composer, somewhat surprisingly, was with Bruce Broughton during the late 1980s and early 90s.  They worked on four projects together - quite a mixed bunch too - The Monster Squad, The Presidio, Narrow Margin and Stay Tuned.  Given how notoriously difficult he is to work with for composers, it's a wonder anyone wanted to work for him more than once, but that's for another day.

Narrow Margin was a 1990 thriller starring Gene Hackman and Anne Archer, in which an assistant DA and a key witness to a murder are forced to go on the run from the Mafia, on a lengthy train ride across Canada in which all parties are on the train.  It's a taut and effective enough movie but one can't help but notice certain similarities between Hackman the star and Broughton the composer - both are capable of greatness and have demonstrated it on numerous occasions, but far too often on projects which are beneath them (probably for very different reasons, however - Hackman almost certainly enjoyed the pay days, while Broughton must surely be frustrated at not having worked on more high-quality movies).

The score is one of Broughton's most thunderous and exciting, featuring possibly the most aggressive action music he's ever written.  There isn't much of a main theme really - much like Goldsmith, surely the master of this type of score, Broughton fashions his music around brief motivic blocks and rhythms, with orchestral embellishment playing around a fairly straightforward central point.  There is a brief piano motif which runs through many cues and acts as a binding device to keep the score together, and it works well.  There is a lot of impressive tension-building suspense music here, with cues such as "Into the Station" presenting the listener (and, of course, movie viewer) with suspense so tangible you feel like you could cut it with a knife.  Good as those sections are, however, it is the action music which most makes this score so impressive.  "Chopper Chase" is one highlight, a magnificently ferocious piece which cannot fail to thrill.  The brief "Sleeper", featuring particularly powerful brass writing and a great piano solo (performed by Mark McKenzie, who co-orchestrated the score).  Later on, the music for the climax is arguably even better, with a relentless orchestral assault coming over many cues towards the end of the album.  "Wooton, then Nelson" is particularly thrilling and deliciously well-constructed.

Sadly, the meddlesome director didn't seem to agree, asking Broughton to rewrite much of the action music so that instead of through-composed music (which works so much better in action movies), he had to hit specific points and verge on Mickey Mousing.  Fortunately, this album presents both versions of all the action cues, allowing the listener to make up his own mind (which is unlikely to be in favour of Hyams, it has to be said).  The album is the 14th entry in Intrada's Special Collection and continues their longstanding relationship with Broughton.  (A quick look through my Broughton collection on the shelf reveals that Intrada are responsible for no less than 80% of it - where would we be without them!?)  Notes are exhaustive, featuring synopsis and scoring details from Joe Sikoryak, notes from Broughton himself (including musical examples of main ideas) and also notes from Intrada's Douglass Fake.  It's a great release of a little-known score, an action score with a rare organic flow.  Highly recommended.


  1. Theme from Narrow Margin (2:32)
  2. Main Title (2:33)
  3. The Hit (2:07)
  4. The Cabin (2:09)
  5. Siege from Above (1:45)
  6. Chopper Chase (4:17)
  7. The Boarding (1:57)
  8. New Passengers (1:58)
  9. Into the Station (2:11)
  10. No Carol for Wooton (3:34)
  11. Sleeper (1:08)
  12. Monashee Station (2:33)
  13. Stalled Success (:42)
  14. Caulfield Runs (1:16)
  15. Narrow Escapes (3:42)
  16. Freeze! (1:14)
  17. Fat Refuge (2:55)
  18. Wooton, then Nelson (2:54)
  19. Nelson, then Katherine (3:30)
  20. It's That Man (:40)
  21. End Credits (3:01)
  22. Chopper Chase (alternate) (2:42)
  23. Hide and Seek (alternate) (:40)
  24. Carol Sleeps (alternate) (:32)
  25. Mistaken Identities (alternate) (:44)
  26. Fighting Nelson (alternate) (3:19)
  27. Collared (alternate) (:41)
  28. End Credits (alternate) (3:02)