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Surrogates by Richard Marvin


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Surrogates (Soundtrack) by Richard Marvin

Composed by Richard Marvin
Atlantic Records (2009)

Rating: 6/10

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“[RICHARD] MARVIN's style is skillfully subdued and unobtrusive, comparable to that of say, MARCO BELTRAMI or HOWARD SHORE.”

No Substitute for Mostow and Marvin
Review By Helen San

SURROGATES (2009) stars Bruce Willis as a die-hard cop. No surprise there. But there's a twist: he's a young Bruce Willis mannequin remotely controlled by the current aging Bruce Willis lying in a high-tech reclining chair. In that futuristic world, everyone has an ageless, beautiful model of themselves (called surrogates) interacting with each other, while their real, imperfect selves are hidden behind electronic circuitry and closed bedroom doors. Though the movie has car chases, foot chases, fights, and murders, SURROGATES is at heart a social commentary about the avatar-happy online community that hides behind usernames and other artificial façades.

Most famous for U-571 and all five seasons of SIX FEET UNDER, RICHARD MARVIN has largely worked in television, scoring such popular series as WITHOUT A TRACE and a long list of TV movies. SURROGATES, directed by long time collaborator Jonathan Mostow, represents his second album release and composer credit for a big budget movie (after U-571). While U-571 (also with director Mostow) was generally well-received as a good listen, it was sometimes criticized for being too derivative of existing scores. This is not an uncommon ill to befall scores whose directors fall too much in love with temp tracks and may not reflect the creative vision of the composer. SURROGATES, then, is MARVIN's second chance to prove he's got the originality and presence for a major motion picture.

And he does, with the exception of one track. MARVIN's style is skillfully subdued and unobtrusive, comparable to that of say, MARCO BELTRAMI or HOWARD SHORE. Showcased against the muted backdrop is an outstanding signature main theme, heard best in "Drive to Club" (2). A poetic motif flowing on a current of propulsive rhythms, the main theme highlights the film's dramatic metaphors without letting you forget it's an action thriller. This minute and a half is the reason to buy the album, if you can't buy the single track.

While MARVIN's quietly suspenseful and, at times, dissonant understatements fit the film's pensive and unsettling mood very well, it is not the sort of music I enjoy listening to. The action cues are more engaging and inspired, such as in "Operation Prophet" (8). The kinetic drums and heralding horns impart exactly the right kind of energy for good action tracks.

The one blemish on the album, if I may call it that, is "Warrant Received/Foot Chase" (4), which is ironically one of the album's best tracks. The similarity to DON DAVIS' THE MATRIX is discreet, but noticeable. Though he greatly improved on the more discordant original, MARVIN doesn't do himself any favors by conjuring flashbacks of Keanu Reeves in black leather. Given MARVIN's history with U-571, anything short of farm fresh is a minus--though again, one should keep in mind the similarities may reflect the director's wishes rather than the composer's.

That is too bad, because I have no doubt the composer has talent. In addition to the main theme, it can be clearly heard in "I Want You," (7) the climactic scene in which Bruce Willis' cop tells his pallid, wrinkled wife that he misses and loves her, the real, unhappy, broken her. Though a very short cue, this is is where MARVIN shows he can make delicate and fragile blossom beautifully with deep, rich colors. Were he able to have developed this theme beyond two minutes, the album would have earned a much higher rating.

There are a handful of very talented television composers who deserve the opportunity to expand their range outside of TV. MARVIN, I believe, is one of them. His music flows fluently even when restrained. I would love to see what it's like when it's granted a larger canvas.

Rating: 6/10


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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Pix Title Sequence 3:14  **
2 Drive to Club 1:39  *****
3 Cam's Apt/ Greer's Apt 4:06  **
4 Warrant Received/ Foot Chase 6:20  ****
5 Urine Abomination 0:57  **
6 Prophet Lies/ Greer Rides 1:29  **
7 I Want You 2:03  ***
8 Operation Prophet 1:49  ***
9 Stone's Headache 3:01  **
10 T-Bone/Stone Zapped 5:41  **
11 Shift Enter 5:26  **
12 Aftermath 5:21  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 79 minutes  




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