Music By Ilan Eshkeri
Varese Sarabande VSD-7246
22 Tracks/Disc Time: 70:10
Grade: A (Best 2013-14)
Bad movies don't ordinarly have bad scores. It's very rare that the case that both the movie was a bomb but it was a good movie and featured an epic score that really rocks the house. Well the film "47 Ronin" was both great looking and exciting but after two years of delays, reshoots and other assorted issues, Universal Pictures finally released the film during a very crowded and star filled Christmas holiday last year and almost immediately cut wrote off its' losses of the films bloated 175 million dollar budget. Despite some positive reviews and a solid metacritic score by moviegoers, the film had no chance of being a hit, but I personally suspect that it will be a cult classic for years to come. The film stars Keanu Reeves as Kai, a half-breed warrior who was found at a young age in the forest as Lord Asano of Ako (Min Tanaka) and his samurai were hunting and then take him with them to live in the castle. Several years later, Lord Asano holds a tournament to welcome the Shogun to Ako. The night after the tournament, Lord Asano is bewitched into hurting Lord Kira of Nagato and is punished into committing seppuku by the Shogun. Realizing that it was a Lord Kira's evil plot, the Samurais along with Kai set out for revenge against the Shogun's final order. The film was the debut of music video director Carl Rinsch, who pretty much had the film taken away from him during post-production and radicially edited while the shooting of the film saw studio interference and altered the original script by writers Chris Morgan ("The Fast & The Furious films") and Hassian Amini.
During the turbulent post-production of the film, the composers originally slated to write the music left the project because of the delays and a third composer was hired to come in and pretty much score the film the way he wanted which fell into the talented musical hands of IIan Eshkeri, who made a sensational splash with Matthew Vaughn's stunning and enjoyable fable, "Stardust" writing one of his most memorable scores in grand operatic and fun fashion. The score to this film definitely required that style of sound and those who have bypassed the film and are curious about how the score is on its' own, will definitely not be disappointed one bit. This is a masterful, energetic and grand work that easily has become Eshkeri's most memorable work he's written to date.
A powerful and tender Japanese opening "Oishi's Tale" establishes the scores terrific mood early on shifting with powerful percussion rumbles to very pensive and delicate cello and flute solos that get the album off to a great start. The score's terrific asset is without a doubt the perfectly balanced shift between propulsive action and quiet, reflective and darkly hued moments that perfectly play off each other in balance. Hard edged action is heard in "Kirin Hunt", "Tournament" (with its' relentless pounding percussion licks), "Dutch Island Fugue" (which features a fun classical mood and one of the many highlights of the score), ""Reunited Ronin", "Tengu", "Shrine Ambush", and "Palace Battle" which feature great sweep and energy to the material. Blaring horns, very rhythmic driving percussion and very aggressive string work are certainly the name of the game here with added urgency and frenetic power. It just simply passionate, aggressive music that channels a little bit of Elliot Goldenthal and it truly works. Eshkeri's more subtle and pensive moments really have a solid profound impact with lush orchestrations and excellent sweeping power featured in tracks such as "Resentment", "Shogun", "The Witch's Lie" (with its' errie foreboding darkness), "Shogun's Sentence", "Seppuku" and "Mikka And Kai" (which plays more so like a tender love them complete with flute and lush harps and strings), that use the established themes and strikes a balance from light to dark and back to light again. Guided by powerful string work and sweeping melody, Eshkeri really nailed these tracks that make the album work so well as a meticulous and able musical whole that makes this score so good. "47 Ronin" is the perfect finale to the score which pretty much reprises the major themes of the score to give the album a great send off. The music also has an added, operatic appeal to it that alot of soundtrack action fans will certainly get a kick out of.
Varese Sarabande's very generous and lengthy album is packed especially for a movie that just completely tanked and as they say, sometimes the music always out lives the movie the music was intended for. Eshkeri really outdoes himself here and it will probably be a score that will do very well for the label through great word of mouth and it truly deserves it much like many scores on the label have in its' very historic past. This one is easily one of the label's truly shining moments of last year and of early this year as well. Major enthusiastic thumbs up!