Every few years, the next big thing in film composing comes along and while it was once James Horner, Alan Silvestri and Michael Kamen, it has more recently been the likes of Don Davis, Marco Beltrami and John Ottman, but unlike the crop who sprung into action during the 80's, those of the 90's seem to fair less well, typecasting being a major problem. Now we're into a new century and the new musical flavour of 2003 is Brian Tyler, who seems to have gone from almost total obscurity, to having three soundtrack releases within a few months. Perhaps the most high profile is this thriller starring Tommy Lee Jones and Benicio del Toro which, starring Jones, rather puts to mind some kind of variant on The Fugitive which did so well for him almost a decade before.
It occurred to me that I've not heard a good, new action score in a very long time. There have been some with great moments, although most of the best bits still seem to come from Goldsmith and Williams, everything else is invariably Media Ventures inspired or simply too off the wall to actually be enjoyable - all whistles, bleeps and groaning brass on far too much synthetic percussion. While Tyler's score to The Hunted isn't exactly reinventing the wheel, there are enough neat touches to invite repeat listens. The album starts strongly with Asymmetric Rhythms (the music is good enough to make such a pretentious track title just about acceptable) and Disordered Patterns, a fusion of Jerry Goldsmith and a nod to Don Davis. The rest of the score is the expected mix of action and the token moments of respite in between. There isn't much in the way of a main theme, but this isn't the kind of score where that's an essential ingredient. The various musical ideas, coupled with some occasionally inventive orchestration - which achieves the surprisingly difficult balance between textural depth and clarity - work together in such a way that you can be thrilled, but rarely chaotic to the point of redundancy, a problem that many younger composers have when trying to be inventive.
The album closes with The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash which I'm sure has some deep and meaningful purpose in the film, but seems a rather odd way to close the album, to say the least. As an essentially throwaway action score, there is much to enjoy here and Tyler manages to make the whole thing sound surprisingly fresh, even though most sections owe a debt to someone. As I frequently comment, there are only so many ways to do action and short of another Hans Zimmer style revolution in the way action is conceived, action/thriller scores are going to be variations on a theme. If those variations remain as interesting as they do here, then we should have plenty to enjoy.