John Powell Paycheck: Original Soundtrack Review

Soundtrack. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

Powell is paying tribute to the cheesiest, glossiest action music from the 1970s and...

Jack Smith 2004

The curse of Gigli is beginning to rival that of Tutankhamen. First, the movie is one of the most spectacular celluloid flops of all time. Next, the monstrous union that is Benniffer, Jenaffleck or whatever splits asunder. And subsequently the reputations of all those involved in the film have taken a sharp nosedive.

Fresh from that disaster, Ben Affleck went on to make "Paycheck", a sci-fi thriller about a scientist whose memory is erased to destroy the secrets he knows. Also crawling from the wreckage of Gigli was composer John Powell, who scored the soundtracks for both Affleck films. But while Ben seems to be struggling to refloat his career, Powell has come up with a pretty potent all-action score.

A full, brass-heavy orchestral sound is infused with a futuristic feel, swooshed around with synthesizers, bleeps and insistent drum loops. The result is edgy and contemporary, yet also knowingly, lovingly retro. Powell is paying tribute to the cheesiest, glossiest action music from the 1970s and 1980s (think Kojak, Magnum, the original Charlie's Angels), and sounds like he's having a fun time.

A memorable, surging main theme drives the action relentlessly forward. "Imposter" reprises it on a delicate, ghostly piano, allowing us to catch our breaths and building suspense. The closing sequence, "Rachel's Party", transforms it one last time with a decorous string quartet as the credits roll. Sure, the score may not be subtle or complex, but one memorable theme is still better than most soundtracks.

The dazzling centerpiece of the score is the two roistering "Hog Chase" sequences. With their scampering strings, funky trumpet riffs, and shimmering synths, they are superbly elaborate tracks, full of false endings and dizzying variations. Its gloriously frenzied man-on-the-run music which rivals any great action score you care to name.

Reviews of the film "Paycheck" have been underwhelming, which is a pity. Muscular, vital, engaging, this is more-than-decent popcorn music and it deserves a hearing. With that in mind, Powell should give any film starring Affleck or Lopez a mile-wide berth from now on.

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