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WAR – Brian Tyler

Original Review by Clark Douglas

I didn’t see the Jason Statham/Jet Li action flick “War”, so I can’t really tell you whether or not it was any good. I saw plenty of trailers for it, and they did their best to make it look as generic and typical as possible. The score by Brian Tyler seems to be attempting to do the exact same thing. It sounds like every other gritty action score you’ve ever heard, and while I’m sure that might delight the crowd of people who fell in love with the ultra-derivative Steve Jablonsky score for “Transformers”, it doesn’t particularly please me.

You see, Tyler is a talented composer who I’ve admired for quite some time. His scores for “Darkness Falls”, “Timeline”, “Partition”, “Children of Dune”, and others are really excellent albums, and Tyler is a stickler for trying to make his music as organic and authentic as possible. But in recent scores such as “The Greatest Game Ever Played”, “Annapolis”, and “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift”, Tyler seems to be increasingly willing to follow temp tracks and provide rather familiar scores. The last thing I want to see Tyler become is a more intense version of Alan Williams.

But let’s deal with the subject matter at hand, shall we? “War”, despite it’s general lack of originality (it borrows from the Bourne scores, among other things) is a pretty decent little adrenaline burst. Tyler’s music is not terribly thematic, it’s all about rhythm, electronic pulses, and energy. At certain times (listen to “Confession”) Tyler seems to be channeling Zimmer’s “Crimson Tide” stylings, though he never reaches that level of thematic power.

The score feels a bit like an album of dance music tossed into a hard-hitting orchestral action score, and the effect is frequently underwhelming. I’m not against the idea of rock/orchestra hybrids, but Tyler hasn’t really found a way to make the two mesh very well. In addition, Tyler can’t always keep up the momentum. A cue like “Swordfight” will feature a great 45 seconds of action, then die away into noodling suspense before picking up again. There just aren’t many action cues here that manage to sustain themselves for more than a few moments.

There’s a few contributions from Mark Batson and The RZA, which tend to be a little more rock/dance oriented than Tyler’s material. Even so, the pieces fit into the overall sound of the score well enough. In fact, Tyler actually seems to be channeling RZA in more creative pieces like “Bangkok Downtown”, which resemble RZA’s inventive score for “Ghost Dog: Way of the Samurai”. The End Credits piece ends the album with a suite of Tyler’s ideas, but even this isn’t really interesting enough to make a good compilation cue. The album ends with a terrible rock song from Machines of Loving Grace, the sort of head-banging nonsense that they tack on the end of every action movie these days. If you need a jolt, this has a few, but it’s probably the least interesting action score in a while, and one of Tyler’s weakest efforts.

Rating: **

Track Listing:

  • Spyked (2:32)
  • War Opening Titles (5:06)
  • Confession (3:06)
  • Rooftop Pursuit (1:44)
  • Whips (2:15)
  • Swordfight (5:16)
  • Rogue Cleans da Hizouse (written by The RZA) (2:15)
  • Getting Started/Scene of the Crime (2:52)
  • The Set Up/Mr. Chang Sends His Regards (written by Mark Batson) (2:37)
  • Shiro Comes to Down (3:56)
  • Bangkok Downtown (2:19)
  • This Isn’t Japan (2:17)
  • Cop Hunting/Face to Face (2:43)
  • Compliments of Mr. Chang (written by Mark Batson) (0:36)
  • Rogue’s Revenge (1:10)
  • Showdown (2:49)
  • Plans for Retaliation (4:00)
  • Watching the Changes (0:46)
  • Shiro’s Estate (2:34)
  • War End Credits (5:31)
  • Suicide Kings (performed by Machines of Loving Grace) (4:04)

Running Time: 65 minutes 20 seconds

Lion’s Gate Records LGR-2008 (2007)

Music composed and conducted by Brian Tyler. Orchestrations by Dana Niu. Recorded and mixed by Stephen McLaughlin. Edited by Joe Lisanti. Album produced by Brian Tyler.

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