John Debney is a composer whose talents really flourish when he scores projects that truly utilize his talents. I think one of the best works he’s done in recent memory was Hatfields & McCoys with Tony Morales. That miniseries is actually a wonderful transition to Bonnie & Clyde, which shares many of the strengths that Hatfields & McCoys had. Bonnie & Clyde is a TV mini-series based on the lives of the infamous outlaw couple. Debney’s sound soars here with a score that brings the atmosphere, the characters and the setting to vivid life.
What Bonnie & Clyde does so well is that it immediately engulfs you in the sounds and styles of the time period. Debney’s instrumentation is top notch and it truly sets the soundscape for the narrative. The score sounds like a wonderful jazzy swing band at times, and it really paints the sounds of the time. However, all that jazz and swing is a small part of the score. When you finally move into the structured thematic material you’ll find a whole new world that brings you one step deeper to the layer of the characters. And the structure truly works like that. You have this stylistic 30’s era sound that places you in the setting, and then woven through it is some fantastic character writing. Debney adds his modern writing style to craft some wonderfully structured sequences, and the narrative flows with intriguing excitement. Quiet and subtle piano moments with an echoing trumpet help balance things out and focus the score on certain emotional beats. Everything works extremely well and the score fleshes out a lot. If there is a fault it would be the use of some modern stylings that slightly bring you out of it. This could have been an amazing period score, but I get why Debney used some electronic textures. The mini-series tries to be edgy and a fresh take; hoping to make you forget about the classic film. So I can see the creative directive there, but in the end I think the electronics hold the potential of the score back a bit. Luckily they aren’t used too often and the final result is some of the most inspired writing we’ve heard from Debney in a long time.
Bonnie & Clyde puts on display the best of what John Debney has to offer as a composer. This is a realm where his talents truly shine and he isn’t forced to conform to some throwaway genre effort. Debney’s stylistic approach and character nuances make the whole experience a wonderful journey. The music has a pulsing life that transports the audience to a time and place, but also tells a thrilling story of two fascinating characters. Strong thematic structure and a bleeding style weave wonderfully in Debney’s Bonnie & Clyde.
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