This is about as close as John Barry has got to writing a Bond score since The Living Daylights in 1987, although this is much more of a sexy suspense score than an action score. Many moments recall a somewhat less icy version of Body Heat, although the cues close to the beginning and end feature the kind of repeated action motif that proliferated through many of his Bond efforts. The Main Title contains a snare drum backed notif that could easily come from any of the more recent Bond efforts, but after that it settles down and becomes a mixture of suspense and steamy sexiness in the way that only Barry scores do.
The central theme is Did You Call Me which is actually a song, but this was only released on the song compilation. The melody is put through countless variations, but in its original form is a saxophone melody that is sexy and sleazy giving the onscreen romance the kind of feeling it somewhat lacked on its own. The main action motif is a very short idea and only appears very sparingly throughout, but features the trademark snare drum, trumpet and string motifs that will be familiar to those who enjoy his Bond scores.
In the same way that Danny Elfman's percussive and often minimalist score for Mission: Impossible had fans complaining bitterly, The Specialist is liable to create similar disappointment if that's you only expect wall to wall synth percussion and brass is liable to disappointed. Even Barry's Bond scores never contained wall to wall action and so I didn't expect much here either. What action scoring there is gives the impression of just being the minimum needed to support what is happening onscreen rather than hype the excitement with fast running lines or wall to wall orchestration. It is the other music that is the highlight of the score and certainly the most effecting in the film. Moments such as the gorgeous choral work in Ray Meets May at Her Funeral (the track titles are a fraction over long and give the plot away more than might be desired) and the ultra sleazy Let's See That Beautiful Face are what make this score a refreshing alternative.
If Barry had done wall to wall action I'd have been very surprised and most likely wouldn't have enjoy the score as much as I do. I enjoy a huge orchestral blowout for certain, but that is not really what John Barry does best. Providing dramatic and appropriate underscore for often crappy films (as this one was) most certainly is the strong point of Barry's compositional talent. Definitely recommended so long as you don't expect the orchestra blaring for the duration.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad