Destroyer is the latest soundtrack offering from composer Theodore Shapiro, and it is something of a detour from his usual fare. Before recent years most of his discography consists of soundtracks for comedies such as Spy, the Ghostbusters reboot, Tropic Thunder and Year One. Destroyer, on the other hand, is the story of Erin Bell (Nicole Kidman), a former undercover cop in the LA gang scene facing up to the demons of her past. It comes across as something of a tonal shift from his usual fare.
This review is being written before the UK release of the film, which is slated for Christmas Day 2018, so there is no clear context for how the soundtrack gels with the actual film, so it will be judged on its own merits. Also, talking about the soundtrack to an unreleased film does always present the possibility of some spoilers from track titles, please keep this in mind before reading on.
The album opens with the ominously titled “The Body” which is a slow building piece of near-orchestral synths in a grand, sweeping tone before it merges near seamlessly into track two “The Calling Card” which continues the synths and adds skittering, jangling strings. These two opening tracks set the sombre, menacing mood that is to follow for most of the rest of the album. Many of Shapiro’s soundtracks are more traditionally orchestral so this is something quite different and special on display here.
Moving past “Taz” with its mournful, distorted background wail, “Eastward” opens on a lighter, more hopeful note, a respite from the heavy, oppressive tone of the opening three tracks. It doesn’t last long as the tone again turns more sombre with “DUI” and those sharp, skittering strings are now accompanied by the quick thumping of a heartbeat in “Chasing Arturo”, building and building moment by moment, growing more ominous before tailing off into silence, accompanied by a single mournful violin.
“Hungry Little Mutt”, track eight, opens with those by-now familiar strings promising nothing good as they saw menacingly back and forth before it spins off into something more erratic and haunting, bringing to mind some comparisons to the soundtrack to the rather superb horror movie “The Ritual”.
Skipping over track 8 and “Merry-Go-Round”, track 9 “LAX” is the halfway point of the soundtrack and that is where things shift up a gear, this track bringing up definite comparisons to “The Game Has Changed” from Tron: Legacy (a flawed film, but a very, very good soundtrack) and even the old Mechwarrior 4 soundtrack from PC back in the day with the grinding, chunky guitar riffs.
Moving on the ominous strings make a return in “The Animals Come Out” but now there is a pounding drumbeat accompanying it, a call to war perhaps?
A track called “Bank Shootout” is unlikely to end well for somebody and with the heartbeat thudding in the background and the strings scratching and snarling away to a Psycho-esque crescendo before the sound of ticking ratchets up the pressure, it is perhaps no great stretch to assume that things are, indeed, going very badly. Once again the comparisons to the descending synth cascade from the Tron: Legacy soundtrack sneak back in as the track winds down.
The Mechwarrior 4 comparisons are back with “From Dusk to Glendale”, the crunching guitar sound is almost identical to that used in the track “T1”. A short track, it’s swiftly on to the haunting, etheral strains of “The Apology”, an altogether different and far more wistful piece than any that has preceded it.
“The Color of Money” returns to business as usual, the skittering strings once again making their presence felt before we merge into “Bank Job Gone Wrong”, another fairly ominous title and another ominous, slightly discordant track to accompany it.
“Full Circle” begins with high, sweet strings that seem to promise redemption, release, something almost religious in their intensity, but just as it seems everything is fine, it slips into a minor key, the strings foreboding, menacing once more, that slow heartbeat making itself known once again. “Chaconne” continues this more uplifting theme, as does the final track “Ecstasy”, the album ending on a more hopeful note, offering some catharsis from the brooding musical journey of the rest of the soundtrack.
This is not quite like other Theodore Shapiro offerings which tend to be a little more light-hearted, veering to the whimsical, this is a dark, sometimes droning, brooding offering which will most likely appeal to as many as it turns off. That said, it only improves with repeated listens, each new listen revealing more facets and details of each track. Hopefully the film will live up to the excellent score that Theodore Shapiro has created here.