Carlo Siliotto will be a new name to most, though he has almost 70 scores to his name in a film music career dating back over 20 years. An Italian composer, almost all of his work has been for productions in his native country, The Punisher being his first major score for an English language cinema release since Fluke (1995). Given this is the score for a reputedly extremely nasty revenge flick based on a Marvel comic previous filmed starring Dolph Lundgren, and this time around headlining Tom Jane, one might be forgiven for jumping to conclusions and expecting a cheap, nasty and worthless crash-bang-wallop action score. And how wrong one would be, demonstrating once again CDs can't be judged by their cover, even when that cover looks like a bargain bin Xerox of a Terminator clone. Seriously, The Punisher has the least attractive, shoddily designed artwork of any CD I've seen in a long time; packaging designed to sell the minimum number of units possible.
Happily from there in its upwards all the way. True that over the course of a perhaps unnecessarily lengthy album there is a fair amount of essentially routine thriller-suspense under scoring, but the heart of the album is a surprisingly rich and emotionally engaging melodic sensibility. Given the composer's nationality, one might resort to stereotyping and suggest he has scored The Punisher as tragic operatic drama (a notion the inclusion of music from Verdi's Rigoletto reinforces), the emotional centre of his music being just what an otherwise brutal revenge drama might need to win over the audience's sympathies to the bloody cause of its anti-hero. So, out of the 28 cues here there are some really compelling musical episodes…
"Moving" introduces a gentle lullaby like melody with a clearly Italianate melancholy mood which calls to mind nothing less than the great thriller scores of Siliotto's compatriot, Pino Donaggio. Indeed, at various points in the score Donaggio's themes and moods for Don't Look Now (1973), Carrie (1976) and Dressed to Kill (1980) all come to mind. So that "If I Can't Believe I'm Home" captures a real nostalgic longing in its 83 seconds playing time, the album really comes to life with the set piece "The Massacre". This extravagant 5.45 long cue takes a while to build, but by the mid point has become a restlessly agitated maelstrom of swirling strings and growing brass evoking Donaggio's stunning Museum set piece from Dressed to Kill. Likewise the tender opening of "A New Family / Joan's Suffering" gives way to a stirring, soaring and inspiring melodic development constructed around a Herrmannesque-like repeating melodic cell to thoroughly rewarding effect.
Elsewhere, apart from within darkest suspense cues an emotional tenderness raises The Punisher way above average for what could easily have been routine genre fare. It will be interesting to hear what the composer can deliver with a more human, or humane, storyline, and on the basis of this his Italian work certainly seems well worth seeking out. For now fans of dark emotional thriller scores will be rewarded here, though there's barely any of the action writing one might have expected.