"If the score doesn't have an accordion in it, we don't have a movie." That quote by director Ridley Scott can be found in the unusually lengthy liner notes for the soundtrack release of Hans Zimmer's score for Matchstick Men. And Zimmer did not let down his director. Apart from being one of the most entertaining scores of 2003, there's a great deal of music performed by accordion.
For Matchstick Men, Hans Zimmer has created a European sounding score, with a lot of influences from Italian composer Nino Rota (and sure enough, his theme for La Dolce Vita is actually quoted in a couple of tracks) and lounge music of the 50's and 60's. It can basically be described as the bastard child of Hans Zimmer, Nino Rota and Thomas Newman. And it's incredibly entertaining and fun listening to. Imagine Hans Zimmer's lovely score for As Good As It Gets with a, at times, twisted Nino Rota sound, coupled with Thomas Newman's more quirky side, and occasional guest appearances by geeky Herb Alpert-ish music. Performed by strings, woodwinds, piano, accordion, marimba, whistling and other instruments. Sounds cool? It is. From the somewhat bizarre opening whistling in "Flim Flam" to the lovely, if not even wonderful, "The Banker's Waltz", which closes the CD. Great stuff. It's inventive and it sounds rather fresh. And it is, above all, fun.
Tracks such as "Pygmies!" offers some excellent orchestral music, with lush, bouncy strings and brass that almost sounds like some distant, tounge-in-cheek relative to Zimmer's battle music from Gladiator, while playful tracks, like "Roy's Rules", is more groovy, with big band brass. And the almost ever present accordion. More downbeat, quiet pieces underscores the main character's (Nicolas Cage) relationship to his newly discovered daughter, with lots of piano and subtle woodwinds, strings and percussion. It adds variety too a score that otherwise would have been perhaps a little too repetetive.
The soundtrack CD also includes music performed by the already mentioned Herb Alpert, as well as Mantovani with orchestra. It's classic, mostly familiar pieces - like Alpert's "Tijuana Taxi" - and, not surprisingly, they mix really well with Zimmer's score. Even the somewhat bizarre version of Swedish composer Hugo Alfvén's Swedish Rhapsody...
So it's a fun and playful score and soundtrack. Almost as fun as the liner notes, actually, which are extremely entertaining to read. Or what about these small selections: "Orchestra distracted by Bruce Fowler", or "Bruce Fowler - Trombone & Whistling (Is There Really A Difference)". And the special thanks to "The Media Ventures Sleep Is For Wimps Team". Cracked me up, anyway.
All in all, Hans Zimmer's score for Matchstick Men is one of the more surprising and most refreshing releases this year. It's not Acadamy Award material, based on how it sounds on CD alone, but it's still a darn good score.
Read other recent reviews by Andreas Lindahl: The Rocketeer
, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
, The Phantom of the Opera