Somehow, unlike the latter Jean Reno who’d play the Eric Serra scored PROFESSIONAL the original, ultimate French tough guy named Jean-Paul Belmondo never quite caught on as an English language star, despite his savoir faire with guns, girls and cigarettes – qualities he’d practice in abundance with 1981s LE PROFESSIONNEL and 1983s LE MARGINAL. But beyond their Gallic leading man, what would truly connect the first movie’s revenge-seeking agent and the second’s drug-busting commissioner were two uniformly superb scores by Italian composer Ennio Morricone, now remastered and given complete releases by France’s Music Box Records.
Adept at every conceivable genre though a few hundred scores, Morricone wasn’t quite known in America as being a composer as capable of spy thrillers and policiers as much as he was known as a master practitioner of Spaghetti westerns – a cop movie talent that he’d really sock over a few years later with THE UNTOUCHABLES. Though contemporarily set, you can certainly hear just how well Morricone could play good guys who didn’t play by the government handbook, with nearly every cue a variation on a memorable main theme. LE PROFESSIONNEL‘s ccupation as an assassin definitely gives this score the harder edge of the duo, with Morricone finding as many ways to make the brooding, ever-amplifying menace for piano and strings, as well as a classical, harpsichord create the sense of a stylish man very much in control of his particular set of skills. The PROFESSIONNEL melody changes identifiable guises with the zest of reaching for a new weapon with every appearance, yet capturing the lonely solemnity of a morally destructive line of work. Military percussion just as swiftly becomes romance, with an ethnically percussive quality capturing an African dictator who’s the hero’s marked man. Morricone’s way with suspense is also in top form, carrying the absolute assurance in a melody that the composer knows is gold.
Morricone provides a jazzier, two-fisted theme that gives a somewhat smoother touch to LE MARGINAL‘s daredevil cop as he makes mincemeat of the Marseille drug trade. Like Belmondo’s charisma, Morricone’s music is all about attitude, going for classical pop and detective rock guitar funk, the score’s sex appeal again coming across for winds and flute. Brassy, staccato builds are the clearest indication yet for THE UNTOUCHABLES groove, along with dark, slithering strings building for a killer’s bullet. While this score might not be as instantly recognizable as “Le Professionel’s” inclusion of the hit single Chi mai,” (which did a hit on much that film’s actual score), LE MARGINAL is arguably the soundtrack that gives even more suave impact to Belmondo way, with an “urban western” sound that would soon translate to 1920s Chicago for with a trademarked bang.
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Article: CD Review of the LE PROFESSIONNEL and LE MARGINAL soundtracks