Max Payne: Original Motion Picture Score CD review

The film’s not all that, but what about the score? Mark takes it for a spin...

The Max Payne soundtrack

The release of Max Payne was widely derided by critics and moviegoers alike, which is a shame as I’m a fan of Marky Mark. I was even partial to his Funky Bunch, too as it happens, and it was with a sigh of disappointment when I read the multitude of reviews that came in slating the big screen interpretation of the titular video game character.

I was pleasantly surprised, therefore, when I listened through this CD of the original motion picture score for the first time. Far from echoing the critical failure of film, the score manages to sustain your interest throughout its 44-minute runtime.

The score is composed by Marco Beltrami and Buck Sanders, and the former might be familiar to some as he’s an Oscar-nominated composer behind soundtracks for films including 3:10 to Yuma, Die Hard 4.0 and the Scream movies. If anything, though, this is more closely related to his work on Terminator 3: The Rise Of The Machines, adopting suitably electronic and synthesised effects to reflect the futuristic tone of the movie’s themes.

Scores such as this are a tough task in many ways. Its themes of action and sci-fi are such that it needs to have a fast, impactful tone that grabs from the off and doesn’t let go. Of course, doing this can quickly lead to a synth-by-numbers affair, quickly becoming uncertain and woolly in terms of its main direction and thrust.

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That’s far from the case here, though. Beltrami and Sanders successfully blend a variety of musical beats, sounds and synths to great effect, while all the time maintaining the sense of sci-fi film noir that lurks ever-present throughout. It’s true to say that there isn’t a particular standout track or tracks and that the CD works best as a whole, the individual pieces not really standing up on their own terms when taken out of context. This is perhaps down to each individual track lasting no more than four minutes and most being around the two, to two and a half minute mark. It does ebb and flow throughout, though, with plenty of peaks along the way.

Another area where the score falls down a little is that, while it earns its stay while it’s on, I couldn’t ever say that it was especially memorable far beyond when the CD player’s switched off. That’s not necessarily a criticism of the score. It’s just to say that while it is good, very good in fact, it’s no Blade Runner.

Still, for a tenner this is definitely worth fans of sci-fi and fantasy action flicks seeking out. It’s a very stylish and slick listen.