Written by UTG critic Grace Duffy, Scene & Heard takes a look at the music that makes our favorite films so memorable. Whether it’s the 400-piece orchestra Christopher Nolan used for The Dark Knight, or the dozen or so bands that contributed to the soundtrack of Top Gun, there is no denying the impact music has on movies and this column hopes to highlight the best of the best.
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A more recent classic in soundtrack terms, Kick-Ass was a visceral, uproarious thrillfest and one of the most delightful movies of 2010. A colourful and humorous romp through the superhero (or would-be superhero) genre, it was justly feted by critics – or at least most of them anyway; if you’re one of those easily offended types who got worked up when Chloe Moretz said a bad word, you should go home and rethink your life. The artists’ soundtrack featured some of the most delightful selections this side of a Quentin Tarantino movie, and even adopted some of the great one’s trademark elements – spoken word excerpts from the film at the beginning of tracks, and an Ennio Morricone piece from For A Few Dollars More. It plays like a particularly sumptuous party playlist, with bonus points for anyone who knows the dialogue from the movie.
Bar one or two less inspired choices (I don’t know if Mika ever made it in the States, but if not, consider yourselves very lucky indeed), the line-up boasts a swaggeringly cool ensemble of artists, with two tracks from The Prodigy alongside offerings by The Pretty Reckless, New York Dolls, and Primal Scream. The Prodigy kick things off with an arresting rendition of “Stand Up,” a track that’s almost mute by their standards. It opts for pomp and broodiness over an all-out onslaught, and together with an opening line introducing the character of Kick-Ass himself makes for a shrill, urban introduction to this cinematically charged world. Further along, “Omen” is a more typically frenetic piece. Its shrieking, siren-like sounds and palpable sense of urgency and alarm highlight the sheer inanity of everything onscreen and shake up a soundtrack that had slipped into easygoing charm. This song is more rugged, rigorous, and invigorating than the self-consciously hip tracks that precede us, reminding the audience and listeners of the exhilarating, but no less vivid, danger involved in Kick-Ass’ actions.
“There’s A Pot Brewin’” by The Little Ones and the “Bongo Song” by Zongamin offer kookier alternatives to the largely rock-driven soundtrack. The former plays around eagerly with sound effects, using sparkling instrumentation and hearty vocals to add some warmth to the iridescent visuals onscreen. It’s a homely track, less about the thrill-seeking and heroics on the street as it is about the laid-back, mundane existence that the teenage protagonist lives by day. The “Bongo Song” is a delightfully quirky piece. Unassuming, unrelenting, and infectious, it’s led defiantly onward by an irreverent and rhythmic percussive refrain. Such is the natural appeal of a song this simplistically brilliant, it barely needs any decoration. The brief spikes in tempo and last-minute sound effects add only minute frills. “Bongo Song” seems to celebrate escapism and adventure and to this end, is perfectly at home serenading the film’s events as Kick-Ass awkwardly roams the streets and bites off more than he can chew.
“This Town Ain’t Big Enough For the Two Of Us” by Sparks makes a mischievous appearance midway through proceedings, bursting with dramatic alertness. Further along, the magnificent Ennio Morricone’s “Per Qualche Dollaro In Più (For A Few Dollars More)” unveils itself gloriously. Heralded by a menacing Hit Girl declaring that she “never plays,” it provides a suitably stirring backdrop to her final showdown. Morricone’s pieces are some of the most sumptuous ever put on film, capturing duty, honour, strength, valour, and a powerful sense of adventure all in one. Few composers leave such an indelible and clearly identifiable mark on their music, and even if all this does is make you want to curl up with a Sergio Leone Dollars Boxset it brings a triumphant sense of occasion to the film.
It’s placed early on the soundtrack, but The Pretty Reckless’ “Make Me Wanna Die” doesn’t appear in Kick-Ass until the end credits roll, and it’s an inspired choice. Taylor Momsen may tend to forget half her clothes, but her sultry vocal abilities can’t be questioned. The band make for an indomitable and forceful presence as the credits trickle by, wallowing in self-confidence and ending the movie in as much style as it began.
Indeed, it’s amusing to me that I’ve only seen Kick-Ass once (it’s on my neverending DVD list, I’ll pick it up any day now), but I’ve played the soundtrack so often that it’s ingrained itself in my subconscious. This is a soundtrack for rainy days and savvy idealism, heralding the pluck and will of the underdog and the joyous ridiculousness of the world onscreen. Youthful escapism at best, and guaranteed to put a spring in your step!