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RICOCHET – Alan Silvestri


Original Review by Jonathan Broxton

Ricochet is an action-thriller directed by Russell Mulcahy, starring Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, and Lindsay Wagner. Washington plays Nick Styles, an LAPD cop, who becomes a hero when he subdues and arrests a violent hitman named Earl Blake Talbot (Lithgow) during a hostage standoff. Years later, Styles is now a successful Los Angeles district attorney, but everything changes when Blake – who has now aligned himself with a group of neo-Nazis in the Aryan Brotherhood – escapes from prison and embarks on a violent and destructive revenge plot against the man who he claims destroyed his life. Ice-T plays Odessa, Styles’s former childhood friend who is now a drug dealer, and the whole thing culminates in a fight to the death atop Los Angeles’s iconic Watts Towers. The original screenplay, as written by Fred Dekker, was pitched as a Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry sequel, but it was rejected for being ‘too grim,’ and was eventually re-worked by Steven E. de Souza and Menno Meyjes as a vehicle for Washington.

The score for Ricochet was by Alan Silvestri who, after a brief dalliance writing mambo music for Soapdish and knockabout comedy music for Dutch earlier in 1991, returned here to his action roots. Getting to the meat of the urban setting of the story, Ricochet is a dark, violent, at times quite brutal orchestral action score, enlivened by a terrifically masculine main theme, and some energetic set pieces that really enliven the cat-and-mouse adversarial relationship between Nick and Blake as it slowly ratchets up the tension.

After the original hip-hop song “Ricochet,” performed by cast member Ice-T in his ‘O.G. Original Gangster’ music persona, the “Main Title” introduces Silvestri’s main idea for the film, a throbbing, swirling, tempestuous motif for strings and punchy brass underpinned with pounded piano chords and clanging metallic percussion. It’s a classic Silvestri invention; there are echoes of Predator, and touches of the more intense moments from scores like Back to the Future and The Abyss, as well as foreshadowings of scores like Judge Dredd. With it, Silvestri seems to be drawing parallels between the urban jungle of 1990s Los Angeles and the actual jungle where Predator was set – it’s a matter of opinion as to which one was actually more dangerous at the time. This idea returns on several occasions throughout the score, with cues like “The Escape” and “Nick Styles Show” being notably exciting.

Some cues offer classic suspense and tension; tracks like “Showdown,” the extended “Power Out,” and the eerie, keening “Bed and Breakfast” are bold and dramatic, big swirling exclamations of sound that emerge from beds of string sustains, dissonant piano clusters and harp glissandi that slither and skitter across the orchestra, and even some subliminal manipulated electronic textures that add a different timbre to the mix, and appear to be mimicking the whine of a glass harmonica. Others are immense, relentless onslaughts, notably the thunderous “Gladiator Fight” and “Viking Funeral,” which feature a notably prominent thumping bass drum rhythm. This drum idea tends to appear as a recurring motif for Blake, reinforcing the idea that he is single-minded and relentless in his determination to have revenge on Styles.

“Drunken Nick” is a low-key, relaxed piece of gentle muzak for strings, plucked harp, and woodwinds, a brief moment of down time before the next onslaught. The subsequent “Nazi Bookstore” is another outlier, a subversive piece of Teutonic martial propaganda which presents itself like a Wagnerian march – pompous brass, flamboyant pageantry – which is actually rather brilliant from a musical point of view, in spite of what Silvestri is saying with the cue in context.

The conclusive “Blake Gets the Point” underscores the film’s finale which, as mentioned before, takes place among the metal sculptures of Watts Towers, an iconic (and pointy-sharp) art installation in the heart of Los Angeles, and which sees Styles reuniting with Odessa to stop Blake’s reign of terror once and for all. Silvestri’s music for the scene sees him presenting his main theme at its dramatic peak, allowing it to emerge triumphantly from a series of vigorous string ostinatos and tension-filled suspense sequences. The heroism of Styles, with its determined sounding brass flourishes, contrasts perfectly with the viciousness of Blake’s percussion rhythms, and when Odessa comes into save Styles at just the right moment, the effect is electric.

The soundtrack for Ricochet was released by Varese Sarabande at the time the film was released but, when you take off the Ice-T song and the 20-second bonus cue of Silvestri’s “Silver Pictures Logo” music, runs for a scant 29 minutes, making it a prime candidate for an expansion by one of the soundtrack specialty labels. Despite its brevity, anyone who has a fondness for Alan Silvestri’s most intense and cacophonous fully orchestral action writing will find Ricochet suited directly to their taste. It’s a brief, brutal, but brilliantly enjoyable flash of the composer at his most masculine, his most intense, and his most primal.

Buy the Ricochet soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • Ricochet (written by Tracy Marrow and Alphonso Henderson, performed by Ice-T) (5:01)
  • Main Title (2:12)
  • Showdown (2:21)
  • Gladiator Fight (2:27)
  • The Escape (2:04)
  • Viking Funeral (1:04)
  • Power Out (5:31)
  • Bed and Breakfast (2:55)
  • Drunken Nick (1:17)
  • Nazi Bookstore (1:13)
  • Nick Styles Show (2:00)
  • Blake Gets the Point (5:20)
  • Silver Pictures Logo (0:19)

Running Time: 33 minutes 44 seconds

Varese Sarabande VSD-5344 (1991)

Music composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Performed by The Skywalker Symphony Orchestra. Orchestrations by William Ross. Recorded and mixed by Dennis Sands. Edited by Kenneth Karman. Album produced by Alan Silvestri.

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