Most scores lend themselves to very strong opinion in either direction, but sometimes there are scores which are pleasing, but without any strong arguments in their favour, neither is there anything notably bad one could say about it. Green Dragon appears to be an entirely Vietnamese production, aside, that is, from the its composers Jeff and Mychael Danna. Although it seems strange that director Timothy Linh Bui did not choose one of his countrymen to compose the score, his brief liner note indicates that he was more than happy with what the brothers Danna produced.
Green Dragon's closest, recent comparative would be Conrad Pope's superlative Pavilion of Women, although the scale here is much smaller. Of course, the setting permits an almost omnipresent use of ethnic instruments, mainly woodwind instruments and some quasi tuned and untuned percussion. The traditional orchestra is relegated to mostly strings and the occasional piano, as in The New Arrivals. The main thematic ideas are introduced during the first couple of tracks and form the basis for most of the score; they are that frustrating style of melody that is both quite lovely, but so gentle as to be a little inconsequential in retrospect. It is tempting to draw a Thomas Newman analogy in the way some of the instruments are deployed, although the Danna's strings don't have the glassy quality Newman can achieve. In this instance, that kind of exquisite transparency in orchestration would offset the ethnic woodwinds quite superbly. There just isn't quite the strength of style to stand out, although the more tuneful material is admittedly more engaging than many of Newman's recent works.
You might deem the end credit song, Mother's Arms by Barry Taylor as inappropriate, but it actually works very well to conclude the album. Perhaps the score's biggest drawback is that it doesn't seem to evolve through its running time, nor does it have any appreciable change in tempo or dynamic. Pope expanded the orchestral forces in Pavilion of Women as it progressed and while the ending could be seen as a bit of Hollywood excess, it did allow the music to evolve. Here, the strings occasionally surge a little, but always quickly return to a moderate volume and the sections focusing on the local instruments always seem to be the same gentle, thoughtful and beautifully delicate style. This is what makes the review somewhat tricky; it is very pleasing, melodic, descriptive of the locale without sacrificing drama, but in the end, it just treads the same ground a few too many times to be truly satisfying.