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Bullet to the Head by Steve Mazzaro (Review)

posted Feb 18, 2013, 4:22 PM by
Mobs, hit men, murder…what else would one expect with a title like Bullet to the Head? And let’s face it, Sylvester Stallone isn’t exactly known as a gentle dramatic actor. While director Walter Hill could’ve easily chosen a more predominant or popular composer for the musical score to an action thriller in this vein, he decided upon Steve Mazzaro. Having worked as a sequencer on The Dark Knight Rises with Hans Zimmer, and as a composer assisting Lorne Balfe on Assassin’s Creed III, Mazzaro was awarded the chance to score his first feature with Bullet to the Head. All in all, his work turns out to be a refreshing take on modern scoring for similar films.

Opening track “Here’s the Story” immediately introduces the resounding theme to be used throughout the score, and its sound is somewhat unexpected: a slow, bluesy, southern rock akin to a stripped-down Lynyrd Skynyrd or perhaps George Thorogood sans horns. It’s very unexpected and pleasing, really digging itself into the listener with its prodding drums and tradeoff guitar and harmonica solos. Second track “Staying in the Game” maintains a similar template while introducing the other primary musical element of Bullet to the Head: soothing guitar reverb with scant melodic guitar plucking and strumming. The blues/rock and reverb interplay is used very consistently in later tracks, but in spite of its only slight lack of variation, the revisiting of either element is surprisingly welcome.

The pattern shortly deviates in a few places, like in sixth track “The Fox and the Hound,” where the pace of the percussion quickens a bit but soon jumps into the more typical fare of the score, before breaking into an interesting tango structure. “This Is My City” does a better job of showcasing Mazzaro’s talent of dissonant guitar feedback than previous tunes, and later track “The Only Life He Had” continues this illustration with almost ambient elements before shortly cranking back into southern rock. “End of the Line” heralds a return to the strong styling of the leadoff track, before relaxing to varying loops of feedback and small passages of guitar, bass and drums. “Bullet to the Head” serves as a great ending, kicking off with a full-on blues rock assault, then at its end floating back to the tango-like melody of “The Fox and the Hound.”

Just in its musical presentation alone, Bullet to the Head really reminded me of other scores like Chris Boardman’s Payback and John O’Brien and Lyle Workman’s Made. Though Mazzaro’s musical compositions are markedly different than on those works, his skill at maintaining Bullet to the Head’s aural narrative also held my attention throughout the score. I think Mazzaro’s sound would easily fit a cheeky dramatic film, or even better, a blockbuster action entry where he can expand the presentation of his obvious talent (and perhaps utilize a larger instrumental repertoire). A good introduction to and a worthwhile effort from a relatively unknown composer, Steve Mazzaro’s Bullet to the Head is a solid piece from an artist who deserves another project to match how eager he sounds.