CD: Money Train (1994)
Label: La-La Land Records/ Released: March 2, 2011
Tracks & Album Length: 17 tracks / (40:53)
Special Notes: 20-page colour booklet with liner notes by Daniel Schweiger / Limited to 3000 copies.
Composer: Mark Mancina
There’s really no pretense about Money Train: while the basic story of robbing a NYC money train for the subway system is perfectly fine, director Joseph Ruben spent far too much time on ersatz character scenes – buddy bonding material – and unfunny, smart-ass dialogue, leaving the ‘money’ material – the heist – until the very end.
Mark Mancina’s job was to support the unfunny material with amiable & hip tracks (funky bass licks, bluesy guitar renditions of the main theme), compassionate theme variations (either in guitar or gentle keyboards) to enhance the weak ‘brotherly’ link between the two transit cops with a shared past in an orphanage, plus the action sequences.
Money Train is post-Speed (1994), and comprises the Mancina’s peak period as an in-demand action composer, so there’s stylistic continuity between Speed, Money Train, and Con Air (1997). Everything is based around a singular theme, and action cuts such as “The Torch Gets Ready / The Torch is Toast” are a mix of pulsing electric bass, frenetic strings, Zimmerlisch bass booms to accentuate near-misses and an escalation of danger, and rapidly increasing tempo – usually accomplished by hastening the collage of bass, brass, and sequenced percussion.
A major action highlight is the lengthy “Breaking the Barrier,” where Mancina evokes some of the step-like, off-kilter notes typical of John Carpenter’s keyboard performances (specifically Halloween III: Season of the Witch), with the brass and strings evoking a classic sense of desperation in the big city (and perfectly suiting the sequence where the two heroes are trapped on the out of control train).
Unlike the aforementioned scores – and other canonic efforts like Twister (1996) and Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997) – as dumb as the movie is, the score has a solid balance of drama, action, light romance, cheeky fun, and a gradual buildup towards the big heist that remained scored in spite of heavy sound effects.
La-La Land’s CD includes all of the score cuts, so there is repetition among brief cues – the lighthearted & groovy “Charlie Steals the Model” and “Buddha Consciousness” are almost identical, save in length – but at 40 mins. the CD offers a nearly complete dramatic experience.
The only thing fans will find lacking is the song “Train is Coming” by Shaggy which bookends the film; the score was designed to fit among certain source cues, but the Shaggy tune is one of the few instances where a source cut sets the film’s tone, establishes the goofball character banter audiences will have to endure, and the musical palette from which the film composer will build his sounds.
There’s total fluidity between score and the film’s ‘title song,’ and Mancina must have had fun scoring a buddy action flick with material that had to swerve from jokey to deadly serious in one cue.
Limited to 3000 units, La-La Land’s CD sports the standard fat booklet of liner notes, and Mancina’s score sounds fantastic: beautiful rich bass, smooth electronica, and sharp brass sounds fans will want to blast loud.
Easily one of the top Zimmer-styled action scores of the nineties, and deserving a special CD release.
© 2011 Mark R. Hasan
Related External links (MAIN SITE):
CD: Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997)
DVD: Money Train (1995)
Categories: Soundtrack Reviews