I have to say that, as a film, XXX annoyed me intensely, so forgive me for a mild rant. The film desperately wants to mock Bond and show how much better it could be done and then shamelessly deploys all the usual Bond tactics of toys, stunts, explosions and women. Yes, the approach is slightly different - the lead character is an extreme sports enthusiast first and a secret agent second - but it pretty much boils down to a chase, a few scraps, saving the world and getting the girl. It so desperately tries to be ironic and yet doesn't realise how silly it actually is. Add to that a stunningly wooden lead, Pierce Brosnan could upstage the dreadfully overrated Vin Diesel (which sounds like a type of aftershave) and one liners that Arnie would refuse to utter and you have a fairly hideous concoction. Admittedly, it wasn't much worse than Die Another Day, but at least that was leavened by vaguely appropriate humour and a solid cast.
Anyway, I'll stop on that one now and get back to the music, remember man, it's all about the music... Randy Edelman has had a variable career and one that, for me, has had only a very small selection of highlights. His action scores are generally not part of that, but fortunately, XXX turns out to be an above average effort. The film was filled with hard rock thrash metal - 'music' that is about as enjoyable as open heart surgery (I know, I've had it), but there was still room for a bit of original score. It seems surprising that Media Ventures weren't asked, although the most suitable choice would probably be Bond's new musical accomplice, David Arnold. However, Edelman provides a solid, loud, but fairly enjoyable contribution.
You can tell this is going to be a BIG score by the fact that more musicians are credited than are required for the average Mahler symphony, particularly the twelve horn players and eight percussionists. Only one harpist though, shame. It does at least mean that Edelman gives the orchestra plenty to do, even if there are a lot of electric guitar riffs and amounts of synthetic percussion that would make Hans Zimmer blush. It's all vaguely held together by an eight note main theme - well, motif really - which is more Milk Tray than Bond, lacking in genuine charm and swagger. Like the film in that respect. Quiet parts are thin on the ground, although Elena is quite an attractive couple of minutes, but this isn't a score for introspection, it's an aural assault with the finger not so much on the thrill button as surgically attached to it.
Although I suspect the elder generation of reviewer would find the entire thing a loud, boorish waste of CD space, in a contemporary context, it's a good, high octane thrill ride of a score which surprisingly manages to avoid becoming too much. It threatens to do so repeatedly, but the menacing inter-action cues balance things surprisingly well. If you haven't had your fix of booming Media Ventures scores for this year, then there are certainly much worse pretenders to the throne, indeed the variety and actual orchestral content mean that it's better than the average Media Ventures effort. Loud. but fun.