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CD: Armored (2009)
Review Rating:   Excellent  

La-La Land Records

Catalog #:
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January 19, 2010

Tracks / Album Length:

17 tracks / (40:59)


Composer: John Murphy

Special Notes:

12-pagel colour booklet with liner notes by director Nimrod Antal.
Comments :    

John Murphy’s Armored opens with a simple theme that somewhat harkens back to the electrified sounds of Miami Vice (2006), but it also captures the essence of Nimrod Antal’s film about an Iraq War vet who reluctantly takes advantage of a friend’s offer for work at an armored car firm, and becomes embroiled in a heist that gets bloody, and pits the entire team against him.

Everyone in the film is desperate or has been victimized by desperation – even the banks are desperate to move a mass of cash quickly because the surplus of $42 has become unwieldy – and the film’s visual landscape is a bleak, rusting slab of a once-busy industrialized town.

Murphy’s title theme – slow, grungy, yet counter-balanced with sleek, semi-tragic strings – infers unhappy people, potential distrust among supposedly supportive coworkers, and the moral dilemmas the quiet war vet faces when he can either ignore an act of barbarism and get rich, or try and stop a really stupid act.

As with the composer’s style, the score’s action cues (”Armored Truck Chase”) are variations of the main theme, though here they’re jacked up with much more intensity because the crew’s actions are fast and precision-based. The rhythms are locked in step, cyclical, and changes in tenor are covered by digitally processed sounds that spiral upward, distort, or flare at the peripherals as stressors push the characters into action.

A more direct variation of the film’s theme is “Ty’s Decision,” which is heavily weighed by fat digital bass, droning and fuzzing underneath layers of sharp electric guitar, and tinny percussion hits. Rooted in Murphy’s love of British trip-hop, the cue’s a mini-suite of emotional movements that reel back: bass lines give way to guitars, cacophony recedes for somber bass, and the whole collage returns with beautiful, Middle Eastern tinged strings before elements disappear into a singular bass line.

A more threadbare variation that blends Ty’s hesitations and fear with the overall desperation theme is “Getting Cover,” with heavy strings and a driving rhythm figure. Murphy thickens the bass saturation as well as duel electric guitars, and there’s beautiful moments of contrast where indecision is covered by just synth bass textures, and tension accented by pinched guitar lines.

In the film, the score is its own driving force, pushing the drama forward as well as smoothening out more familiar scenes where characters bicker over the money once Ty has locked himself in a truck, and refuses to leave, holding the entire team hostage until some security arrives. Most of Antal’s focus is on keeping the drama alive and mobile, and the dialogue just deals with basics, leaving room for the characters to act, and Murphy to layer in his score.

Armored is ostensibly a B-movie, and Murphy’s score gives it extra depth since Antal’s focus ultimately hones in on two friends now completely at odds, with one willing to kill the other with cold indifference. The battle culminates with ”Ty Runs,” as the war hero is chased by his ex-buddy in an armored truck, and a recap of the title theme (“The End”) which takes on a slightly different meaning as Ty has been redeemed, his younger brother is safe, Ty’s stature within the company (and particularly his supervisor) is solid, and he’s become the latest company legend.

More important, though, are the emotional scars that Antal can’t capture in the final scenes because they’re internal: Ty knows the truth of the day’s events, as well as his guilt by participating in the robbery, and it’s that new guilt that Murphy’s theme now encapsulates. Instead of the war horrors he refused to discuss with his now-dead team, it’s now a mess of tragedy that he has to deal with, worsened by a cash reward for ‘stopping’ the robbery on his own. One does wish Murphy was able to expand the end theme into something lengthier, but as the album demonstrates, he was able to cover a fair level of conflicts within an already short film, and its three acts of intro, heist, and conflict.

To read an interview with composer John Murphy, click HERE.


© 2010 Mark R. Hasan

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