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Review: Judgment Night (1993)

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Label: Intrada

Catalogue Nr.: Intrada Special Collection Vol. 22

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Judgment Night (starring Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr. and Stephen Dorff) is about four friends who accidentally take the wrong exit on the freeway and end up in the darkness of Chicago's ghetto where they are witnessing a murder. From that moment on, they are fair game for the wisecracking bad guy, played by Dennis Leary, and his gang of killers.

The score:

Alan Silvestri worked three times for director Stephen Hopkins and Judgment Night can be seen as part two of this unofficial Silvestri-Hopkins trilogy, coming between Predator 2 (1990) and Blown Away (1994). The movie itself was the least successful of the three, being a complete box office failure in 1993 which was a busy year for composer Alan Silvestri who scored no less than five films while most of them tanked terribly at the box office. Due to the lack of success, there has neither been a bootleg nor a promo of the score but a soundtrack album which consists of rap songs and does not feature one note of Silvestri’s score. Luckily, one of our favourite labels, Intrada Records, recently released a limited to 2000 units edition of the entire score.

Coming after the mediocre sequel to the successful Schwarzenegger film Predator (1987), both composer and director continued their interpretation of the concrete jungle setting and thus the score comes close to Predator 2 in style but is working on a much more subtle level. The majority of this score consists of string-based or electronic suspense music only interrupted with occasional outbursts of Silvestri action music. The score is one of the darkest affairs in Alan Silvestri’s book and certainly not the action-driven thrill ride that some would expect from the composer of action-driven scores such as Judge Dredd.

“Freeway Confrontation” opens the score (and the mayhem in the film) with a pounding timpani accompanied by slow playing strings creating a dreary mood familiar in tone to his score for What Lies Beneath (2000). “New Passenger” continues this kind of suspense music with a string motif reminiscent of the opening of Predator as the protagonists are driving through the dark streets of Chicago and a short shock effect when they overrun a stranger. Things really start going with “Execution”. In this track, Alan Silvestri is unleashing his predatoresque action music for the first time with pounding rhythms for jungle percussion and dark brass fanfares at the beginning of the track while suspense returns in the middle. The track ends with yet another action outburst, this time with a heavily pounding timpani accompanied by militaristic snare drums, dramatic string writing and fanfares performing what could be called the “villians” motif which is not a real theme but a rhythmic structure. It gets a few variations throughout the score, most notably in “Final Fight”. “Train Yard” starts with another portion of jungle percussion as the protagonists are running away from the villains and hiding in a train wagon, while the second half of the cue consists of suspense music very much familiar in tone with the suspense music from The Abyss (1989). The second half of “Some ‘Splainin’ To Do” offers more heavy pounding orchestral action music this time combined with some jungle percussion. More dark suspense strings and synth sounds follow in “Bat Woman” and the lengthy “Ladder Crossing” which runs almost 10 minutes. At the beginning of “Ladder Crossing” a calm but dramatic string melody emerges from the suspense music only to disappear as fast as it came to go into more suspense underscore. Calm militaristic drums accompany the beginning of “Ray’s Deal” which goes into a somewhat ethereal solo for electrical pan flute. The electronic parts of the score really merge perfectly with the orchestral parts.

“Ray Eats It” opens with a clash and ends with more dark jungle rhythms. The dreary string and horn motif from the beginning of the score is revisited in the next track “Hello Ladies” followed by the rhythmic villain's motif. “Make A Stand” contains one of the few bright spots of the score with ethereal and somewhat dramatic synth music reminiscent of Silvestri’s score for Shattered (1991). The other part of the cue features a floating flute performance which the composer would later expand for his Blown Away (1994) score. While it is very interesting to hear the roots of this floating flute, Silvestri is using the idea with much greater effect in his latter score for Blown Away. More dramatic music accompanied by jungle percussion and electric pan flute follows in “Mike Shoots Sykes”. Another suspense track comes with “All I Got Is You”, featuring atonal strings in the middle of the track and a short action music outburst at the end. The atonal strings return in “Stalk & Talk” which results in more suspense music. The suspense music is a big problem for the overall feeling of the score on CD. You have some really lengthy passages of suspense and they are at times really uninteresting. Especially the lengthy "Ladder Crossing" goes on and on without much happening, you can easily skip it without missing anything.

As a special bonus, Intrada included three cues from Silvestri’s unused electronic score, featuring the original Judgment Night theme as the composer intended it for the opening before it was replaced by a rap song. Surprisingly, the synth tracks are a much more exciting part of the release and at times more thrilling than some of the orchestral action music heard earlier on the disc.

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 56%

Score as heard on CD: 37%

TOTAL: 47%

 

The presentation:

Intrada did a great job on the overall presentation. The liner notes are rather short but we still get an excellent track-by-track analysis. Sound quality is top-notch and the CD is running long but with 72:44 minutes almost a bit too long. There are plenty of suspense music tracks that do not really go anywhere musically and could have easily been left off the CD to make it a more satisfying listen. Nevertheless, since it is a special edition release and since it is a Silvestri score from a period in which his scores hardly got released, every note is welcomed mostly for hardcore-Silvestri fans (like myself). The bonus tracks at the end are the perfect goody to end the CD. Interesting: Alan Silvestri himself produced the CD for Intrada. I certainly don’t mind his new hobby and hope he will put out more CD’s of his scores in the future. Maybe he will even go back to the future?

Presentation by the Label: 80%

 

Summary:

Extremely dark and subtile suspense score with occasional outbursts of average Silvestri action fare that will please all Silvestri-enthusiasts with the composer’s usual orchestral and rhythmical trademarks. On CD, the score is loosing a lot of it’s impact especially during the lengthy suspense tracks, so everybody who is not passionate enough to sit through these dark parts of the score, only to get few moments of simplistic action music, should stay far away from it. It is definitely not a melodic "easy-listening" experience, so if you are not familiar with Alan Silvestri’s music you should better start with Back To The Future 3, The Mummy Returns or Siegfried & Roy and avoid Judgment Night.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

 

                                   Tracklisting:

 

                                                                    01. Freeway Confrontation (2:07)

                                                                    02. New Passenger (4:33)

                                                                    03. Execution (5:22)

                                                                    04. Train Yard (2:13)

                                                                    05. Some 'Splainin' to Do (5:17)

                                                                    06. Bat Woman (2:14)

                                                                    07. Ladder Crossing (9:43)

                                                                    08. Ray's Deal (3:24)

                                                                    09. Ray Eats It (2:03)

                                                                    10. Hello Ladies (1:23)

                                                                    11. Make a Stand (3:32)

                                                                    12. Mike Shoots Sykes (5:20)

                                                                    13. All I Got is You (5:30)

                                                                    14. Stalk and Talk (4:40)

                                                                    15. Final Fight (3:34)

                                                                    16. It's Over (1:04)

                                                                    17. Frank Takes the Wheel (4:02)

                                                                    18. I Tried (2:36)

                                                                    19. Judgment Night Theme (3:09)