I don't meant to carp on about orchestra sizes, but even the seeming excess of Graeme Revell's orchestration is roundly beaten by the musician listing for James Newton Howard's The Package. I gave up counting the credit list exactly, but roughly estimated a staggering 200 musicians, including three harps and seven keyboard players. The latter complement includes one John Barry Prendergast - the possibilities, that it's the John Barry (no longer Prendergast) or that the person has the exact same name as the famous film composer, both seem equally remote, although I'm guessing the former is the least unlikely. Quite where all these performers appear, in what is pretty much a routine action score, I have no idea. Admittedly, the most likely explanation is that multiple recording sessions involved different sets of players and not that they were all in the studio at the same time. Even at its most impressive sounding, there is little indication as to such a volume of performers.
The Package was directed by Andrew Davis, who made a name for himself several years later directing Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones in The Fugitive. The latter appears in this end of the Cold War thriller alongside Gene Hackman, both with a notably large amount of hair. As with Davis, James Newton Howard was earning his stripes at this stage and to be fair, The Package is a somewhat anonymous action score, lacking some of Howard's more distinctive mannerisms which, it seems, he has acquired more recently. It also lacks the subtlety of something like The Fugitive, Howard was clearly going for a ballsy, Goldsmithian approach, combining synths, percussion and lots of brass, although does diverge at points for a more pop sensibility, most notably during Police Chase Eileen In Garage (another set of track titles that have dreadful grammar, missing out more than the occasional 'the') and the laughably naff The Shoot Out. It seems a trifle unimaginative to describe the score as a mixture of action and suspense, but frankly, that's all there is to it. The middle sags slightly, but it picks up with the exciting, multi part chase during the final tracks, thundering towards the more subdued conclusion and more perky End Credits.
In a curious, somewhat apt analogy, Brian Tyler is earning his stripes scoring 2003 Tommy Lee Jones thrillers, but fifteen years of action scores have certainly coloured his writing, as opposed to Howard who was writing them when the concept of the action/thriller score was really quite a new phenomenon, with Jerry Goldsmith (naturally) leading the way. If Tyler's early efforts are all craft and little art, the same could be said for early Howard. This is a score written with perfectly good craftsmanship, the brass blare, the strings run up and down endlessly, while the percussion holds everything together and keeps it all moving. However, it lacks a the strong identity of a Goldsmith (or a more recent Howard) score and certainly doesn't have much in the way of main themes. The liner notes by Paul Tonks (which do insist on the existence of a four note main theme - kind of short, don't you think? - and certainly not enough to hum in the shower) are interesting, relaying enough information about both film and score.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad