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IN TOO DEEP – Christopher Young

intoodeepOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

I suppose everyone can have an off day once in a while, and even though Chris Young’s off days are often better than other composer’s best, In Too Deep still remains one of his least-inspired scores for many a year. It’s interesting that Young should score movies like this because – and I don’t want this to sound in any way racist – he is one of the few white composers who can write music for black movies. Normally, the director of a film like In Too Deep would employ someone like Terence Blanchard or Stanley Clarke to provide a culturally appropriate underscore. But Young, having written for movies like Tales From The Hood and Set It Off, seems able to convincingly convey the same musical identity.

Directed by Michael Rymer and starring Omar Epps, LL Cool J., Stanley Tucci and Pam Grier, In Too Deep is a contemporary cop thriller about an undercover police officer Jeff Cole (Epps), sent deep in to the heart of Cincinnati’s drug culture community to break up a gang led by the vicious Dwayne Gittins (LL Cool J), who refers to himself as “God”. However, as Cole begins to infiltrate further into the gang, and win the confidence of “God”, he finds that the lifestyle of the crime fraternity becomes more and more appealing…

Synth loops, ticking percussion, and an R&B beat behind a somber string orchestra is the order of the day in In Too Deep but, to be frank, much of it is rather unremarkable. There is no real melody, no recurring theme, and very little of what anybody could describe as beauty – although, having the nature of the movie in mind, it is difficult to see where Young might have been allowed to introduce any of his traditional sweeping themes. Compounding this fact is the regular use of songs by popular rap artists on the soundtrack, many of which feature on the more widely available song compilation.

Occasionally, in tracks such as ‘Thank Not’, ‘Wild Life’, ‘Tank Trips’, and during the latter half of ‘Jay Ball Sweat’, the beat subsides a little and allows the violins to take over, and although the effect is not particularly stimulating, Young’s exquisite string textures are always enjoyable to hear. The beats themselves are quite interesting, and the synth programming by Arthur Schaer is undeniably excellent, but on the whole there is very little innovation going on, and even less in the way of anything really memorable. Two action cues, ‘Bust’ and ‘Jay Ball Sweat’, provide a quick dose of loud, lively dissonance and give the album a much-needed kick up the backside, but they only last for a couple of minutes each, and before you know it the music is back into ticking and creeping mode.

In truth, only the main and end titles really leave any tangible lasting impression. The opener, ‘In Too Deep’ is notable for two excellent solo performances from Sal Marquez on trumpet and Kenneth Burgomaster’s piano, while the conclusive ‘Missing Vocal’ is just that – the musical accompaniment of a rap song written by Young to be heard in the film, but which was ultimately dropped from the final cut. In the end, the thing about In Too Deep that disappoints the most is the lack of anything remotely “Youngian” in its musical make-up. In most of his scores, there is at least one calling card, something which earmarks it as being a Chris Young score, giving it a sense of composer identity. In Too Deep is totally anonymous and, worse still, totally dispensable. For a composer of Young’s caliber, that is possibly the worst criticism of all.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • In Too Deep (3:09)
  • Cool J (2:15)
  • Slam Guru (3:27)
  • Hair Wind Child (3:56)
  • Thank Not (1:53)
  • Wild Life (1:52)
  • Suite 201 (2:49)
  • Bust (2:30)
  • God’s Alive (Inside a Movie) (2:30)
  • Ant Heel Blues (2:58)
  • Tank Trips (1:38)
  • Jay Ball Sweat (2:55)
  • Frisco in the Trash (2:34)
  • Missing Vocal (3:14)

Running Time: 37 minutes 46 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6072 (1999)

Music composed by Christopher Young. Conducted by Pete Anthony. Orchestrations by Pete Anthony, Jon Kull and Christopher Young. Featured musical soloists Kenneth Burgomaster and Sal Marquez. Recorded and mixed by Michael Farrow. Edited by Chuck Martin. Album produced by Kostas Christides, Flavio Motalla and Christopher Young.

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