May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Mark ISHAM Rules of Engagement  London Metropolitan Orchestra, Mark Isham   Trumpet MILAN 73138 35906 [41:59]

There is a moment within the first track ('No Victories, No Defeats') where the brass section and military percussion rise above the somewhat cliché solo trumpet, sounding unusually like a glorious throwback to the Silver Age of motion picture music. I thought, If the score holds onto this momentum then here is one of the most interesting score of 2000 thus far.

Mark Isham's "Rules of Engagement" does not maintain a steady motion, but it possesses enough dramatic strength and musical distinction to provide average entertainment. It observes many of the expectations for a military courtroom/conspiracy melodrama -- there are the aforementioned trumpet solos and the obligatory snares and those overly modest 'tension' cues that deliberately aim to annoy by leading nowhere (One of the rules of disengagement?). The groundwork of the score comes from an earlier Isham composition, 'On the Threshold of Liberty,' that is not only acknowledged and credited but also included in its entirety at the end of the disc for comparison! Hurrah!

The nicely performed trumpet solos by Isham are more introspective than usual. "Rules" has an air of somber reflection. The obligatory frazzled strings and sustained chords dominate the atmospheric cues, along with synthesized ruckus that divert attention from the orchestral backing...The reoccurring 'heartbeat' is a transparent horror device that wangles the listener into feeling assaulted, and it works. I wish the blasted thing would just go away.

So the score does not grow far beyond its roots, and more substantive writing could certainly make a greater emotional impression notwithstanding, Isham does achieve a captivating tautness when every note is said and done. Three tracks of material not contained in the film, including the aforementioned original recording of 'On the Threshold of Liberty,' flesh out the disc. The packaging offers the standard assortment of motion picture stills plus notes from the director. As an album it is of the sort one reserves for an impulse buy - a purchase that brings satisfaction, but is not necessarily worth every bit of thoughtful effort.


Jeffrey Wheeler



    Jeffrey Wheeler

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