I would like to start this review making some sincere statements: I
really like Chris Young's work, having heard and enjoyed his scores along
the years, beginning with the remarkable 1987's Hellraiser. He is
definitively one of my favorite contemporary composers, but I can't easily
recognize his music at a first listening. In my opinion, Young still does
not possess a distinguished musical voice as an author, something that his
contemporary colleagues James
Newton Howard and Elliot
Goldenthal achieved a long time ago. This said I don't think it is a
problem after all, in view of the high quality of his output.
This Runaway Jury, for instance, does not have a clear Young's
trademark. Sometimes it sounds like a Newton Howard's work, sometimes even
like a Thomas Newman score. However, like all Christopher Young's works it
serves perfectly well to the movie and it is enjoyable as a soundtrack
album. The composer is not a stranger to the thriller and legal drama
genres, having delivered solid scores for films like Judicial Consent
(1994) and Murder In The First (1995). This time Young's music
underscores a film based on a John Grisham novel about lawyers in New
Orleans, who must face corruption, powerful corporations and moral dilemmas.
Underneath the plot, carried by an outstanding cast (Dustin Hoffman, Gene
Hackman, Rachel Weisz and John Cusack), the music succeeds on establishing
the film's setting, atmosphere and tension. Let us give a quick look at the
Young wrote a main motif based on piano and strings, and two bluesy/jazzy
secondary motifs that represent the film southern location, as well the
courtroom activities. All of them are enriched sometimes by Teresa James'
vocal. “Runaway Jury” opens the CD and introduces the score main theme.
Strings and guitar soon join the piano and Teresa James' voice. It is a
somber, melancholic cue that ends with the return of the voice/piano/strings
trio. In “Dumb Witness” the vocal is back, this time introducing a
secondary motif performed by electric piano, percussion and a jazzy trumpet.
Here, I can hear echoes from the outstandig Quincy Jones' score for the
classic Sidney Lumet's In The Heat of The Night (1967). “Cheaper by
the Dozen” starts with electronics and a funky rhythm; in its second half
the cue gains suspense tones. In the short “The Game's
Afoot” the electric guitar is heard for the first time with the orchestra's
“Not Lady Liberty” features an interesting ascendant strings work, a
solo trumpet and excerpts from the main motif. “Shark Tactics” is an
attractive suspense track driven by orchestra and electronics, which
develops into action material with some sharp interventions of strings and
brass. “The Divine Komeda” brings back the jazzy motif, this time
featuring electric guitar solo and funky drums. “Jury for Sale” and
“Easter's Con” displays some percussion in an eastern/Thomas Newman's
style. “Voir Dire” features the orchestra but is based on synthesizers
and electronic percussion, alternating suspense and action moments.
“Habeas Corpus” blends a secondary courtroom motif with another
rendition of the main theme. “Rankin Fitch” starts in a very ambient
way, with a slowly introduction of the keyboard, percussion and electronics.
But it stays ambient, with the synth effects increasing towards the end.
“Spilt Whiskey” has its blues flavor punctuated by guitars and
keyboard. “ The Devil's Not Such a Bad Guy After All” is a groovy
exercise with no drums, based only on electric piano and some creative
percussion. “Fayeth in Fate no More” is the lengthier track of the album
that brings back some elements and motifs already heard in the score.
Basically it is a suspense piece, with percussive and electronic effects.
“Who Hurt You?” presents us with the best and the most intimate
rendition of the main theme, followed by “Unconditional Love”, where the
score is concluded with a very fine strings work, on which we hear for the
last time the female voice.
Runaway Jury is a sometimes subtle, but most of
time is a powerful score, one of the best for this genre of movies, with a
well-deserved one-hour lenght Varèse Sarabande score album.