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Abrasive all-synth actioner
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
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Album cover copyright (c) 2006 TriStar Pictures, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
This daft thriller about a cop in a robot-dominated future society is easily Michael Crichton's weakest as director. Tom Selleck is amiable enough, but the stunt casting of Gene Simmons as his nemesis is rather daft. Crichton's friend and favoured composer Jerry Goldsmith was naturally on-hand to provide the music, and took the futuristic setting of the film as his cue to do something he'd never done before - write an all-synth score.
Goldsmith himself said on several occasions, while lamenting declining standards, that he couldn't stand scores which used electronics to replace an orchestra; rather, that they should always only be used as an extension of it. I guess he thought that Runaway was not an appropriate place for an orchestra to be, but oddly, he said himself that he "orchestrated" the music for electronics. There's nothing here with a synth trumpet pretending to be a trumpet or anything like that, but instead we usually get a melodic line being played by a synth which is some kind of generic "brass sound" or "wind sound" or whatever - which frankly seems a bit of a waste of time.
The timbre Goldsmith creates is different from what he would have achieved with an orchestra, of course, and it works reasonably well in the film - but I'm not convinced it actually works better than if he'd gone down his usual route, and he himself said that it was far more difficult realising this score than realising an orchestral one would have been. Unfortunately the great electronic curse which found its way into some of his otherwise-orchestral action music of the period (the drum machine) gets a workout here too, and sounds just as silly as usual. Some of the action music here is brilliantly-constructed - "Alley Fight", "Shootin' Up the Ritz", "Lockons" - and it works OK in this form, but just imagining how much better it would work if played by an orchestra is very frustrating. These are all high-standard Goldsmith action music, but they are rather hard to listen to.
Runaway was an early CD released by Varese Sarabande but has been out-of-print for a long time. Now, it's back (in extended form) courtesy of the same label's CD Club, but has almost-instantly disappeared once more having, amazingly, sold out its 2,000-copy run very quickly. It's average music, made worse by being all-synth, and lends further weight to Goldsmith's own claim about synths-replacing-orchestra being a bad thing.