January 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings / January /

With the release of xXx and Die Another Day, it comes as no surprise that Hollywood, still reeling from the effects of the most recent Writers’ Guild strike, should turn to the world of international espionage to draw box office ticket sales. In doing so, they have produced two largely unsuccessful comedies – one intentional, the other not – featuring respectable performers keenly supported, but not rescued by, a selection of well-known West Coast composers. One is The Tuxedo, music composed by John Debney and Christophe Beck, and the other is:

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever  
Music composed by Don Davis
  Available on Varèse Sarabande Records (VSD-6413)  
Running Time: 52:23
Crotchet   Amazon UK   Amazon US

ecks vs sever

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is the antithesis to the comedic spy jaunts of Jackie Chan in The Tuxedo. Advertised with, perhaps, the most dreadfully miscalculated tag-line in motion picture history ("Antonio Banderas is Agent Ecks. This September, he's going ballistic."), the film tells the story of two rivals agents, played by Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu, pitted against each other in mortal-combat and who must unite in order to defeat a common enemy.

The accompanying song album to this box office failure is as equally banal as the subject matter it supports. However, despite being laden with largely indistinguishable dance tracks, it features two score cuts by veteran composer and action film favourite, Don Davis. Here, he provides an engaging "Main Title" dominated by Heavy Metal guitar and drums, and accompanied by a thoughtful sampled Gamelan motif and wistful, de-tuned voce di petto (chest voice) soprano. "The Aquarium", Davis's final contribution to the album provides a semblance of resolution to the supposed drama. Tense sampled string pads, and a transformation of the pentatonic Gamelan figuration for alternate instrumentation, form a harmonic bed for the mournful vocalise whose latter journey takes flight over pounding drums and a related guitar solo.

Davis's contribution to the album is undermined by the poor-to-middling quality of the dance tracks sandwiched in-between. "The Name of the Game", more offensive for its sub-par Propellerheads imitation than for its inclusion of sampled swearing, plays more like a remixed Lonnie Liston Smith track rather than a dark, hip-hop song. "Smartbomb" is a anything but its namesake and is a woeful inclusion from The Fast and The Furious scribe, BT, noteworthy only for its production values. There are really only three stand-out dance tracks on this album and, even then, their effect is somewhat diminished by a lack of  movement. Parrot supply "Time", a track that wouldn't feel out of place on a Robert Miles album but which is let down by a weak structure, as well as "I Think of You", which plays like a chilled out offering from The Cure. Finally, Sasha supplies the slightly experimental, pounding "Bloodlock".

As was to be expected, the inclusion of two cues by Don Davis does not really justify the purchase of this album by anyone not seeking to re-live the film experience. It is also questionable as to whether the included dance tracks will provide a sufficient enough attraction for people who have actually seen the film, as there is hardly a dearth of similar albums available in mainstream circulation. I am also slightly concerned that the disc does not feature a "Parental Content Advisory" sticker, though that is based upon the review copy that I received. Ultimately, like the film it promotes, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever is a poorly-misjudged release. Now that's something to go ballistic over!

Glen Aitken

* 1

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