Soundtrack: Massive Attack / Unleashed

In 2005 Massive Attack completed what is to date their only film soundtrack, Unleashed aka Danny the Dog. Checking in with that today mostly out of curiosity as to why I hadn’t heard it before now. That’s mostly because the consensus among the MA faithful is that Unleashed is the weakest offering in the band’s catalog.

I haven’t seen the film. The plot as I understand it is one of those implausible sci-fi yarns that make sense to absolutely no one except Comic-Con attendees who have dreams of selling screenplays. Something about a guy who grew up being raised as a dog and as an adult can only be controlled by some kind of magic collar and he’s of course a martial arts genius and all that. The film received good reviews but honestly I take a pass on such movies. However, I’m no stranger to experiencing a film entirely through its soundtrack so I had it going today. 

It’s not a terrible s/t. The opinions of many Massive Attack fans who think it’s, among other things, too generic rather miss the point of what a soundtrack is meant to do. The strongest contemporary soundtracks are necessarily weak in the songwriting department, because songs in a film/TV production that are complimented with full lyrics generally gum up the works with too much distraction. In Unleashed MA correctly went the route of less-is-more to support the action. And while it’s not the most compelling s/t I’ve ever run into there’s a lot of nice sonic texturing and triphop convention to make me feel the group earned their money on this one. 

Would have been interesting to hear MA create something for film employing one of their patent intensified monotone vocal tracks to add a dramatic counterpoint. But the more I think about it you’d have to write a scene around that idea instead of throwing it in after shooting and praying that it works. I would like to see more directors view musical artists not just as service providers but as collaborators with the entire concept.

And really — how much musical genius can you expect to squeeze out of a music group when they’re asked to score a film featuring Bob Hoskins (in yet another cheesy reprise of his role in The Long Good Friday) leading a cretinous martial arts whiz around various large cities with a dog collar to help them collect from their loan sharking customers?