Home > Reviews > ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 – Graeme Revell

ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 – Graeme Revell

January 21, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

assaultonprecinct13Original Review by Peter Simons

A remake of John Carpenter’s 1976 classic western-meets-urban ghetto thriller, Assault on Precinct 13 stars Ethan Hawke as police officer Roenick, whose precinct is used to shelter a group of policemen and criminals, including crime lord Bishop (Lawrence Fishburne), when their convoy is forced to stop overnight at the precinct due to bad weather, despite the fact that the building has just been closed down for good, and has been cut off from power and communications. Things take an even nastier turn when the precinct is surrounded by an unknown, but heavily armed group ready to kill everybody inside – thereby forcing the cops and the prisoners into an uneasy alliance as they fight off a common enemy. Heralded by most critics as a surprisingly good remake of the 1976 version, other reviewers have slammed director Jean-François Richet’s film for lacking the eerie tension that made Carpenter’s movie a classic.

Brought in to score the film is Graeme Revell, who is no stranger to this sort of action thriller. The Kiwi composer has in the past written some highly effective scores for films like The Siege, The Saint and The Negotiator. Revell often takes a somewhat experimental approach to film scoring favoring electronic ambiances over melodic material. Not a great many fans appreciate Revell’s style, but it cannot be argued that his music never works superbly well in context – even if his music makes, more often than not, for a little unrewarding listen on CD.

The main theme, first heard in “Good Morning, Buddy”, is an emotional piano motif that, in its simple beauty, is somewhat reminiscent of Craig Armstrong’s works. It is heard again in “Complex Problems”, one of the album’s stand-out cues in terms of emotional conviction. “Deadly Volunteer” is a particularly eerie cue with the main theme augmented by dissonant woodwinds and sliding string noises. “Hot Wire Girls” too employs the score’s melancholy main theme. These tracks, spread out over the album as they are, provide the necessary relief from the tension that is built up in the many suspense and action cues. They also provide the score with a gratifying thematic backbone that is severely lacking from the thriller tracks. “Duvall’s Showdown” is the album’s satisfying finale, with orchestra and electronics taking up the main theme and actually making it sound quite heroic.

Throughout the score Revell employs a large amount of electronic drum loops and synth noises, but it is the orchestra that continually takes center stage. The score’s softer moments are dominated by strings, piano and the occasional woodwind instrument, while the action parts are brought to life by the orchestra’s brass section augmented by synthesized percussion. “What’s My Line Up” is an understated suspense cue, somewhat similar to Harry Gregson-Williams’ work for Spy Game, featuring muted drum sounds and mysterious synth pads; while “Masked Invaders” is a typical action cue with celli, bass piano and trombones providing the obligatory bumps and screeches over layers of frantic strings, synth effects and percussion. “Bishop Arrest” makes use of exciting bass drums and Japanese sounding percussion.

“Party’s Over”, “Burning Man” and “Rescue Capra” are all effectively suspenseful, though their frenetic and non-melodic nature is a little unrewarding on CD; while “Your Dog is a Dirty Pig” and “Precinct 13” are a little less chaotic, with the former cue even briefly providing a noble line for solo trumpet, but still are difficult to fully appreciate away from the movie. The soundtrack album is book ended by two renditions of “Generique Assault” a gangster rap cue by KRS One using samples from Revell’s score. Though I personally have little or no interest in this type of music the song does, of course, match well with the score cues.

Graeme Revell provides exactly the kind of score you would expect from him. While his detractors will not be converted by his Assault on Precinct 13, Revell’s fans will find much to enjoy. The production values are top notch and the composer has found a striking balance between orchestra and electronica: despite the score relying very heavily on synthesizers they always seem to augment the orchestra, rather than the other way around. Kudos should also go to orchestrator Tim Simonec and score mixer Mark Curry. Having not yet seen the film at the time of this writing, it is easy to imagine Revell’s score working quite perfectly within its context. Due to the tense nature of both the film and its music, the score is not one to wholeheartedly recommend to just anybody. It’s a good as they come in this genre, but it does come with some reservations.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Generique Assault (written by Graeme Revell, White & Spirit and L. Parker, performed by KRS One) (3:45)
  • Good morning, Buddy (1:48)
  • What’s My Line Up? (2:35)
  • Masked Invaders (3:16)
  • Complex Problems (2:35)
  • Helicopter Delivery (1:35)
  • Deadly Volunteer (1:28)
  • Bishop Arrest (1:51)
  • Party’s Over (4:09)
  • Burning Man (1:32)
  • Rescue Capra (1:30)
  • Hot Wire Girls (2:45)
  • Your Dog is a Dirty Pig (3:05)
  • Precinct Breach (2:25)
  • Duvall Showdown (4:34)
  • Generique Assault – Radio Edit (written by Graeme Revell, White & Spirit and L. Parker, performed by KRS One (3:07)

Running Time: 42 minutes 25 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6634 (2005)

Music composed by Graeme Revell . Conducted by Mario Klemens. Performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic . Orchestrations by Tim Simonec . Recorded and mixed by Juraj Durovic, Oldrich Slezak and Mark Curry. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by Graeme Revell.

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