Mark Mancina came to the forefront of action scoring with Speed, a film clearly modeled on the action (and melodramatic) scoring tropes of mentor Hans Zimmer, and while not a bad thing per se, it does date the score as vintage nineties bombast.
Manica’s score always seemed a bit truncated on the original Fox CD – a common problem with the composer’s most popular scores – and La La Land’s CD features features the complete score (plus the Billy Idol tune which closed the film).
In its newer, longer, and expertly mastered incarnation, Speed still holds its own as a benchmark in orchestral/synth action music, and Mancina’s own touches – sampled digital effects like a blaster beam, struck metal cables, and anvil hits – add depth to ambient cues like “Elevator Stall” and “Move!” whereas clipped bass chords are part of the rhythmic devices which keep the score’s most kinetic cues moving at a breakneck pace.
The film’s main theme – a really simple collection of urgent notes – works exceptionally well because they don’t come to a full resolution during most of the film. The theme’s a hook designed to energize scenes, and it mirrors the ongoing conflict between the mad bomber Howard Payne and the contingent of law enforcement personnel attempting to find Payne while trying to stop the doomed, out of control bus.
Fox’s original CD ran more like a tight suite of dramatic moments, whereas the expanded CD adds some industrial-styled synth cues (“Pop Quiz”), theme reiterations with slightly differing levels of urgency (such as the rippling “City Streets”), or the short finale to the subway finale (“Runaway Train”) before the orchestral “End Title” closes the film with a sleeker, warmer theme recap to signal all is finally good.
John Takis’ liner notes provide an overview of the film’s production and breakdown of each cue, and fans ought to be pleased the predecessor to Mancina’s Speed 2: Cruise Control [M] (1997) is finally available in its complete version.
© 2012 Mark R. Hasan