Review: Ricochet (1991)

Composer: Alan Silvestri

Label: Varese Sarabande  

Catalogue Nr.: VCD-5344



The mediocre vengeance-thriller Ricochet from Highlander (1986) director Russell Mulcahy looks like a mediocre 80's flick that came one decade too late with a story that seems heavily inspired by Cape Fear (1962). It is about a young L.A.P.D. officer and jurist student Nick Styles who one day busts professional killer and master criminal Earl Talbott Blake after a rather ridiculous scene at a carnival. Seven years later, Styles is the assistant distinct attorney of L.A. and enjoys a good reputation in the media while Blake spent his time in prison and forged a vengeance plan to destroy Styles life in the most embarrassing way possible. During an escape from prison, Blake fakes his death and starts taking revenge. In this violent orgy, the only aspect worth watching the film is John Lithgow, who delivers a cold villain performance that is quite terrifying and perfectly compensates the fact that his character is written rather poorly and one-dimensional. His next villain role as Qualen in Cliffhanger (1993) seems like a carbon copy of his role as Blake. Denzel Washington is entirely on autopilot while the plot is terribly predictable and avoids too many surprises.

The score:

A simplistic and brachial vengeance thriller deserves nothing more than a score that is simplistic and brachial in itself. Composer Alan Silvestri did just that and provided Ricochet with a simple and straight-forward composition that has an emphasis on rhythmic violence instead of being a varied musical experience. The resulting music is at the lower end of the long list of his many complex action classics that include Predator (1987), Judge Dredd (1996) or The Mummy Returns (2001) but nevertheless is effective in what it wants to achieve. Silvestri's main idea for this rather mono-thematic score is a quickly rising 4-note string figure over a driving ostinato for low strings, most likely to represent killer Blake's unappeasable thirst for revenge. The rest of the score is a variation of this main idea which is introduced in "Main Title". Here, the string ostinato occasionally builds up from quiet lurking to heavy anvil crashes. This cue was used twice in the film, first for the title sequence as well as for a scene near the end of the film in which an insane-looking Nick Styles is trying to convince his wife to leave their house and hide from Blake.

"Showdown" is a rather mislabelled cue because there is not much happening besides some monotone Silvestrian low-key string-acrobatics reminiscent of Judgment Night (1993). The first portion of "Gladiator Fight" is of a different calibre because it transforms the main theme's ostinato into a driving workout for timpani accompanied by screaming horns and nervous trumpets to emphasise a fight of life and death between Blake and a prisoner. Whenever Blake's anger and hate erupts in some act of violence, the driving timpani ostinato bursts out. Whirling strings open "The Escape" followed by a suspense passage and some heavy pounding action music with dark fanfares reminiscent of Silvestri's music for Predator (1985) although not half as good as in the classic predecessor. "Viking Funeral" is actually the score for the last part of Blake's escape when he gets rid of a fellow escapist. Silvestri gives the timpani another workout and the trombones accompany the strikes with some lower tones but again, this is only a variation on the main title. "Power Out" is probably one of the weakest Silvestri-suspense cues that has ever found its way onto a CD as it only offers some barely noticeable piano tinkling and a low-key statement of the main theme over a length of 5 minutes.

Things don't change with "Bed and Breakfast" which is another suspense track but this time offers more interesting ideas such as a dizzy trumpet effect when Nick Styles is drugged by Blake. Now follow two cues that are complete breaks from the previous material. First, a pleasant cue for piano and flute called "Drunken Nick" which is the only bright spot in an otherwise dark score. However, that also makes this little beauty a lonely oddity that disappears rather quickly without leaving much of an impression. Second, a cue that was composed for an unused scene, called "Nazi Bookstore" which is a clichéd military march that seems to come right from a nasty Nazi music-book but is actually an original composition by Alan Silvestri. The cue feels largely out of context with the rest of the music but is nevertheless a welcome addition. Suspense returns at the beginning of "Nick Styles Show" as Nick blows a building for a faked suicide to fool Blake and destroy his plan. A powerful build up to a statement of the main theme can be heard at the end of the cue when the building goes off and Blake's rage erupts again. The best cue of the CD is certainly the music for the final fight between Nick and Blake as heard in "Blake Gets The Point". The timpani ostinato returns, accompanied by dark fanfares and a cool Silvestri trademark in the brass at 1:55 into the cue. Silvestri's unused "Silver Pictures Logo" music is a nice bonus track that ends the CD but it can also be found on the compilation Voyages: The Film Music Journeys Of Alan Silvestri.



Score as heard in the film: 69%

Score as heard on CD: 53%

TOTAL: 61%


The presentation:

After Predator 2 (1990), this is another Silvestri score that was recorded with the Skywalker Symphony Orchestra at the Skywalker Ranch. The sound is basically comparable because all strengths and weaknesses of the performance and the mixing appear again. Of note is a lack of prominence in the string section which is odd because a majority of the suspenseful underscore largely depends on strings. The brass and percussion on the other hand comes off as too strong. It is hard to tell if this was a result of a poor (album) mixing or bad mic-ing but the generally uneven mix certainly affects the listening experience. With barely 30 minutes of original score, the album represents the average length of a Varese CD from those days and there are a couple of interesting cues left unreleased. Some cues could have easily been replaced by more worthy additions: there was a powerful cue in the scene when Nick's friend is shot by Blake which I would have preferred over such pointless cues as "Power Out" or "Showdown". An unnecessary rap song by Ice-T (who also appears in the film as a drug dealer) which actually plays over the end credits opens the CD. Why they put this song at the beginning instead of the "Silver Pictures Logo" is another one of those strange Varese sequencing mysteries. The rest of the score is presented in chronological film order but this makes no difference really since the music lacks of a strong narrative quality anyways. The booklet contains some coloured, some black and white pictures from the film but comes without liner notes. Silvestri-completists might want to get this very soon because it has gone OOP.  

Presentation by the Label: 34%



If you expect a varied Silvestri-thrill ride like Predator (1987) or The Mummy Returns (2001) you will likely end up largely disappointed by the composer's music for Ricochet (1991). Just like the film's plot of vengeance and terror, Alan Silvestri's musical accompaniment is simplistic and brachial with a focus on volume rather than a consistent narrative structure. The idea of a striking timpani ostinato for villain Blake's rage is kind of serviceable in the film, so the score is certainly not just entirely pointless noise as some critics have put it. However, that can't save it from being a rather tiresome experience on CD. There is some suspense material such as "Power Out" or "Bed And Breakfast" that is largely forgettable while some of the action cues such as "Gladiator Fight", "Viking Funeral" or the CDs highlight "Blake Gets The Point" can be quite entertaining once you got used to their aggressive nature. This one is certainly far from being Alan Silvestri's most varied action-suspense creations but can still offer one or two thrilling moments worth checking out. If that is not enough for you, then you should better pass on this disc.   

Review by Andreas Creutzburg



1. Ricochet perf. by Ice-T (05:01)
2. Main Title (02:12)
3. Showdown (02:21)
4. Gladiator Fight (02:27)
5. The Escape (02:04)
6. Viking Funeral (01:04)
7. Power Out (05:31)

8. Bed and Breakfast (02:55)
9. Drunken Nick (01:17)
10. Nazi Bookstore (01:13)
11. Nick Styles Show (02:00)
12. Blake Gets the Point (05:20)
13. Silver Pictures Logo (00:19)