Home > Reviews > MANIPULATED – Scott Glasgow

MANIPULATED – Scott Glasgow

Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Manipulated is a new low-budget mystery thriller whodunit, written and directed by Matt Berman. The film stars Kelly Perine as Scott Keating, an experienced interrogator who works with law enforcement to track down serial killers. In the aftermath of a personal tragedy, Keating returns to his hometown, but soon becomes embroiled in a new murder case, and is enlisted to help the police solve a case mystery can’t crack, and figure out which of three women killed a man in cold blood. The film has a fun B-movie supporting cast including the likes of Traci Lords, Chase Masterson, Michael Paré, and John de Lancie, and recently premiered straight-to-streaming in the United States.

The score for Manipulated is by composer Scott Glasgow, who worked with director Berman before on films such as Hollywood & Wine in 2011, and The Wedding Pact in 2014. Glasgow is a composer who, for one reason or another, seems to be somewhat stuck writing great music for films that virtually no-one sees. My favorites by him include varied titles like Lo from 2009, Riddle from 2013, and The Curse of Sleeping Beauty from 2016, but over the last few years he has found himself scoring a series of action/sci-fi/horror movies, such as The Ninth Passenger, Slay Belles, Attack of the Unknown, and two recent Bruce Willis movies, Breach and Cosmic Sin. As such, it’s really nice to see Glasgow getting to score a movie which stretches different musical muscles, and he must have thought so too, because for me Manipulated is the best score he has written in several years.

If you were to use other scores as comparisons, you could say that Manipulated is sort of a cross between Jerry Goldsmith’s sexy thriller scores like Basic Instinct and Malice, and James Horner’s low-key legal drama scores from the 1980s and 90s, perhaps something like The Pelican Brief or Gorky Park. The film’s budget mostly precluded Glasgow from using any real instruments, but despite this he was still able to create a compelling musical soundscape built around strings, flute, piano, and harp, as well as a clock-like tick-tock rhythm played on claves. There are several themes weaving in and around the score, including a sophisticated jazz-infused theme for the main character Keating, overarching ‘mystery’ and ‘tragedy’ themes, and a recurring piano motif that first appears in the second cue, “Clifford,” representing the heinous crime at the center of the story. Meanwhile, the three women who could potentially have committed the crime are represented by one overarching theme which first appears in “Karen,” and then develops through much of the rest of the score.

Several cues stand out. The performance of the main theme in the opening cue, “Manipulated,” is icily elegant, and features a gorgeous duet between Glasgow’s piano and Sara Andon’s flute, backed by lilting strings. The elegant and classy Tragedy theme returns in “Emotional Breakdown,” and has a hint of John Williams’s Presumed Innocent in the piano chord structure, which is welcome indeed. There’s a second statement of the main theme in “District Attorney” arranged for more prominent harps, and full statement of the theme for “Detective Keating” in the eponymous cue, which leads into the dramatic and revelatory “Keating’s Research,” which features especially notable writing for rich cellos and cool pianos.

The so-called Ladies Theme heard in “Karen” also comes back in “Sara,” Cassandra,” and “Three Suspects,” a quartet of icy cues that pass a mysterious and moody motif around between piano, strings, and harp, augmented by a series of agitated Herrmannesque string chords that illustrate the inherent danger surrounding these femme fatales. The latter of these cues also features a unique instrumental color courtesy of a set of Vietnamese gongs, which brings a new timbre to the palette.

The Crime theme for strings, piano, and nervous-sounding clacking claves, which first appears early in the score, comes back with a vengeance in “Crossing the Line,” and dominates much of the score’s final third, notably in tracks like “The Knife” and “Epiphany”. It’s not action music, per se, but it does raise the stakes somewhat. One of the most interesting touches comes via Glasgow’s use of the famous James Horner ‘crashing pianos’ that were such an iconic part of scores like Sneakers, The Pelican Brief, and many others. Glasgow uses them here in “Crossing the Line,” and later in cues like “Supposition,” and it gives the score a wild, unpredictable, aggressive sound that is really compelling. Glasgow fully admits that he stole this technique from Horner, and says that it’s done in respectful homage to him, which I love. Keeping the sound alive.

Other things I noted and liked in the score include the rolling percussion textures in “Waving Rights,” and the classical-sounding string passages that slither their way through significant parts of the three “Interrogation” cues, especially when they juxtapose against Glasgow’s firmer, more dominant piano chords. “Flashback to Happiness” has a hint of light romance and prettiness to it, especially in the combination writing for strings and harp, while “The Crime” has a woodwind texture running through it that is unusual and fascinating. “Arrested” is a wash of rich, tonal classicism based on the ‘Largo’ from Georg Friedrich Handel’s 1738 opera Xerxes, while the conclusive pair “Confession” and “Outwitted” contain satisfying reprises of several of the score’s main themes, including Keating’s theme in the finale.

The score’s only real drawbacks are its length, and some of the sonics. A few of the score’s middle album cues do tend to get a little bogged down in meandering string-based tension, which is all very musically literate and appropriate in context, but sort of makes the score grind to a halt a times. A little judicious pruning here and there, perhaps to bring the album running time closer to fifty minutes, might have made for a more tight and cohesive presentation. As for the sonics – well, that’s film music budgets in 2021 for you. The same thing has happened to Scott Glasgow here as happened to Mark McKenzie on his Dragonheart sequels; it doesn’t matter how good the actual writing is, sampled strings are going to sound like sampled strings, and some people are going to get turned off by that fact alone. Personally, I can look past that and appreciate the dramatic technique and inherent musicality within, but for those who can’t, it will be a problem.

Overall, though, Manipulated is a fine score from Scott Glasgow, and is probably my favorite score from him since The Curse of Sleeping Beauty in 2016. The intentional homages to the mystery-thriller scores of Goldsmith, Horner, and Williams give it a sense of compositional ambition that you don’t often get in scores for films with this type of budget, and although it is clearly not on the same sort of level as the works by those all-time masters, the fact that Glasgow used those works as his inspiration tells you something about what he was setting out to achieve. But Manipulated is not just copy-pastiche either; the score is also awash in many of Glasgow’s personal compositional stylistics, and it’s the combination of those two elements which makes it worth exploring.

Buy the Manipulated soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Manipulated (1:40)
  • Clifford (3:24)
  • Emotional Breakdown (1:15)
  • District Attorney (1:11)
  • Detective Keating (1:39)
  • Keating’s Research (2:31)
  • Karen (3:06)
  • Sara (1:48)
  • Cassandra (1:43)
  • Three Suspects (1:44)
  • Waving Rights (1:14)
  • Interrogation No. 1 (4:01)
  • Interrogation No. 2 (2:36)
  • Interrogation No. 3 (4:10)
  • Flashback to Happiness (3:53)
  • Revelations (2:35)
  • Crossing the Line (3:18)
  • Francine and the Will (1:09)
  • The Knife (2:19)
  • Epiphany (1:38)
  • Supposition (4:02)
  • The Crime (2:53)
  • Arrested (based on ‘Largo’ from Xerxes by Handel) (1:42)
  • Confession (5:45)
  • Outwitted (2:34)

Running Time: 63 minutes 40 seconds

Fourteen Kings Music (2021)

Music composed by Scott Glasgow. Orchestrations by Scott Glasgow. Featured musical soloist Sara Andon. Recorded and mixed by Scott Glasgow. Album produced by Scott Glasgow.

  1. April 20, 2021 at 11:00 am

    Fantastic review,Jon! (Aways love all of your reviews!) Wonderful new score by composer Scott G – he is continually doing amazing work and is on the rise! I am so honored to be featured on flute in the beautiful first cue. Thank you for the lovely mention!

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