Brian Tyler began scoring films in 1997, building a reputation in the time since as an effective composer. His action and thriller scores in particular have brought him considerable attention. In 2008 Tyler filled the formidable shoes of the late Jerry Goldsmith, inheriting the job of scoring Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo. He did an admirable job, evoking Goldsmith’s acclaimed themes for the previous Rambo films without sacrificing his own style. Working again with writer/director Stallone, Tyler’s latest score is for the upcoming action extravaganza The Expendables.
Lionsgate is releasing The Expendables: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack on CD, with a generous seventy-plus minutes of music spread over twenty tracks. Action movie score fans have reason to celebrate. Without having seen the highly anticipated movie, which hits theaters August 13th, the music alone suggests pulse-pounding excitement. Anyone who has followed the pre-release hype for this movie knows expectations are running high. The all-star action cast, headlined by Stallone but also including heavyweights such as Jason Statham, Jet Li, and Mickey Rourke, has movie fans around the world salivating at the prospect of a true clash of the action titans. Scoring the film must have posed a challenge; creating an epic feel to live up to the legacies of those involved on screen.
Especially during some of the lengthier pieces, Tyler demonstrates he was more than ready for that challenge. The lead off track, sharing the same title as the movie, immediately sets the tone, building intensity slowly as it reaches a dramatic choir-backed crescendo. “Ravens and Skulls” hits the ground running, with a surge of stinging strings, before switching gears midway through for a somber interlude that includes a stately brass theme. “The Gulf of Aden” seems tailored for a supremely tense sequence, as the piece zig-zags between sparse, pulsating rhythms and bombastic full orchestration. “Warriors” gallops along with what sounds like an acoustic-based approximation of a techno beat.
Providing a nice contrast, the heavily percussive action cues are interrupted by a few stylistically-varied pieces. A tender love theme, “Lee and Lacy” is based around heavily reverbed, finger-picked guitar. The cue is named after a pair of romantically linked characters, Lee Christmas (Jason Statham) and his fiancé Lacy (Charisma Carpenter). It’s a brooding, melodic piece. Given the movie’s plot, a group of mercenaries attempting to overthrow a South American dictator, there are some appropriately Latin flavored cues. “The Contact” is chief among them, a relaxed bit of trilling acoustic guitar with syncopated percussion. The same contemplative guitar work spices up other cues, such as “Lifeline” and “Aerial.”
Long before hearing the score, I was champing at the bit in anticipation of seeing The Expendables. Brian Tyler’s work only enhances that feeling. The Expendables: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is musically varied enough to allow for stand-alone listening. How well it works in conjunction with the visual action on-screen is yet to be seen. However with such a rousing set of themes, there seems to be no imaginable reason to find fault with the music.