Rent-a-Cop - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

by Chris McEneany
Movies & TV Review

Rent-a-Cop - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Soundtrack Review

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Another week, another gem from Jerry G!

This time out, the guys at Intrada have taken off the studio shelf and dusted-down Goldsmith's hugely enjoyable score for Jerry London's 1987 action-drama Rent-a-Cop, a disposable thriller that starred a disenfranchised and job-seeking Burt Reynolds as, erm, a disenfranchised and job-seeking ex-cop called Thomas Church, and his earlier co-star from 1975's Lucky Lady, Liza Minelli as a high-class hooker who witnesses a gangland massacre and can identify the deranged assassin, known as Dancer, and played by 80's villain-of-choice, James Remar. Riding on the bullet-riddled bumper of such urban thrillers as Lethal Weapon and Die Hard, London's movie was of a much lesser calibre. Shot in both Rome and Chicago , where the story is set, the film had an unusual look and atmosphere about it. The soft “soapish” qualities of the plot also sat awkwardly beside the copious scenes of violence, again giving the film an uneven feel. Even Reynolds had done this sort of thing much better before in the likes of the great Sharkey's Machine (1981). But Rent-a-Cop, with its lazily laconic buddy-buddy banter between Church, now working semi-undercover and finding himself falling for Minelli's somewhat less-than-lucky Della, and his old partner Lemar, played by Reynolds-regular and former member of Sharkey's elite machine, Bernie Casey, the effortless chemistry between the leads and, of course, some so-so action sequences still became a solid enough outing to garner itself something of a fan-base on home video and TV , despite its very poor (and sadly delayed) reception at the Box Office.

But with all manner of lesser actioners, horrors and thrillers finding their scores on music-collectors' wish-lists - the Bronson/Norris devotees have been exceptionally well catered-for over the last couple of years - the time was certainly right for Jerry Goldsmith's surprisingly effective score to make a welcome return in complete and cleaned-up form after an earlier and abbreviated album of highlights that he put together back at the time of the film's release for the same label.

During this period of the mid-to-late 80's, the composer was still enjoying the beauty and creativity of synth-crafted sound-designs. Legend, Runaway, Explorers and Extreme Prejudice had marked a massively new and hugely addictive direction for him, the mixing desk and electronic keyboards of tonal mode-smiths allowing him to find moods, ambiences and spectral qualities that he knew could actually embellish his more conventional orchestral approach, rather than swamp it. Of course, Goldsmith had always been something of a pioneer in this regard, anyway. His 1968 work for Planet Of The Apes, for instance, utilised very unusual instruments, vulgar and primitive-sounding percussion to affect a totally alien sound. Then he brought in the electronica for the 1975 big screen SF adaptation of Logan's Run, the synthesiser blending perfectly with the beautiful symphonics to enable Goldsmith to define a totally unique and vibrant new futuristic voice. For Ridley Scott's groundbreaking Alien (1979), his score became as unnerving and as terrifying as the unearthly creature, itself, the composer virtually reinventing the orchestra with all manner of weird and wonderful ethnic instruments and some wildly unorthodox writing. But it was the advent of the push-button 80's that saw his embrace of the style take on a much fuller, and more confident approach, so confident in fact that he came to rely upon it more and more. This sound, in other composers' hands and decorating other films from the decade, is often incredibly dated and laborious when listened to today. Bands such as Tangerine Dream would soak movies like The Keep and The Sorcerer in lush, moody, glistening ambience, and Georgio Moroder would brood whilst Vangelis soared with echo-plexed angels. Only Goldsmith would marry the traditional with the nouveau in a style that would successfully accompany the film, itself, and still sound fresh and exciting even today.

The film is likeable, but low-key, more TV-Movie in execution than big-screen adventure, but, as usual, Goldsmith still gives it his all and comes up with another great score that sets itself apart on album and becomes a rewarding experience in, and of, itself.

With a main theme, heard in Track 1 and then, in various guises, throughout the score, that epitomises the era that birthed it, the sound of the times (a severe transition from melodic to brusque and antagonistic) and the romantic angle of the story, Goldsmith opens up the movie, its characters and the theme of reluctant heroics and situational romance. It may sound like something that came in on The Love Boat, but the main theme is actually quite lush and soothing and, apparently, one of the composer's own favourites. The big sustained drum-machine beat lifts us up and out of the 70's idiom, and even if your imagination begins to form images of white disco suits, bouffant hair-dos and Barry Manilow, then take heart from the great solo trumpet that croons its way mournfully across the roof of the theme, symbolising Reynolds' bitter and disillusioned cop, creating a macho signature that has, believably, seen better days. This solo trumpet is, of course, a massively recurring motif that Goldsmith utilised right the way throughout his career, commencing with his Western lament for Kirk Douglas' last cowboy in Lonely Are The Brave and reaching, perhaps, its most famous character rendition for Johnny Rambo in First Blood, and the uber-warrior's subsequent adventures. Effortlessly romantic, this still contains elements of a more serious nature.

Track 2 is the stand-out set-piece that covers the disastrous drug bust that sets up the whole drama. Entitled The Bust, this is a lengthy track that piles on the suspense. Shivering electronica glistens and Dancer's immediately distinctive theme kicks-in. Formed with a unique left-hand-only piano motif and a terrific synth-derived whooshing sound, this core theme will serve as both a recurrent warning of danger and come to characterise the glacial resolve and unrelenting nature of the insane hit-man and his unending mission. The sequence starts boldly with glimmering notes from the keyboard, a slow thudding of the drum-machine and a sense of creeping menace. The next cue in the track then marks an exciting swing in tone as a swifter synth-beat ticks away beneath a long, thick two-note brooding line of ominous threat. The way that Goldsmith drops pitch in this coursing roller-coaster of threat is terrific. Shades of Extreme Prejudice, from the same year, sizzle through, Dancer's slashing wind-effect piercing the slowly intensifying wall of sound. The electronic pulsing of the track is gloriously addictive, occasional slamming chords clashing with the steady metronomic beat, adding colour and texture to a mean and moody linear barrage of pent-up angst. But listen out for the almost Bondian phrase that ripples brazenly through the final stage of the track, Goldsmith having a lot of fun mixing in heroic replies to all the glowering musical malevolence.

Track 3, Late Trick, has fantastic space-age glittering synth swirls cascading over the top of harsh, angular electronic jabs and thrusts, as Dancer stalks Della and then attacks her. A short, but brutally efficient cue that feels mysterious, deadly and somewhat SF-infused. Goldsmith is likening Dancer's cruel mindset and modus operandi to some sort of robotic killing machine and the track delivers a fun motif that is at once dark and evil, unusual and hypnotic. But the album then crashes out of such avant-garde stylings and quickly brings back a softer version of the main theme for the lilting Lonely Cop. Violins and piano bring a more traditional sound to the passage depicting Church's whimsical observation of young love on the streets of Chicago, the solo trumpet returning in something of a Bill Conti-type of easygoing character-empathetic display of big emotional dissection.

Goldsmith then begins to interweave the romantic main theme with Dancer's aggressive motif across the rest of the score and Tracks 5,6 and 7 do this expertly, building tension and layering on the developing relationship between Church and Della as he gets drawn into her conflict with the man she can put the finger on. The Platform, Track 5, establishes the fear and paranoia that the call-girl is undergoing. Mistaking an innocent man on a train platform for the killer, she pulls a gun on him to the accompaniment of deep and searing synth chords. After a tense build-up, the track ends on a forlorn note of helplessness. Glassy chimes on the keyboard usher in a low register reproach from piano and strings, the refrain denoting the trauma of Della's predicament in the next track, The Room. Church's theme returns to soften the mood, with the piano gently played and the trumpet left off for a change. For such a sweet tune, the addition of electronica would usually be unthinkable, but somehow Goldsmith makes it all work. The track ends as it began, with rapid twinkling chimes. Russian Roulette, Track 7, features the left-hand piano phrase, but brings in French horns and the drum-machine to energise the cue. Dancer is up to his usual tricks, playing loopy with those who are supposed to be controlling him, his gun-antics and sheer unpredictable nature mimicked by Goldsmith's quickening tempo.

The Station, Track 8, is a good old-fashioned mood-piece. Electric bass guitar thrums low suspense as Church has Della scour the police computer for an image of the killer. Steady ticking in the background marks time and occasional thuds on the piano remind us of the gravity of the situation. Church is now operating outside the law. Fellow cops are on the take and it appears that there are few people whom the pair can trust. Low and pensive, the cue is darkly edged with that furtive vibe of torchlight, hushed voices and covert dealings. However, Goldsmith ends the piece with the splendidly reassuring main theme, suddenly swinging the mood around 180 degrees into one of quick-fire optimism. It is a great trick and one that perpetuates this cat-and-mouse motif runaround that has been going on since the start. Of course, this can't last, can it? Track 9, aptly entitled This Is The Guy, returns us to the guarded atmosphere of Della's continued search to identify the assassin, this time moving on to the regular clients that use her agency (run, incidentally, by Dionne Warwick's Beth). More modulated little phrases from the piano and the synth add texture as the situation becomes far more deadly ... for, observing the duo from across the street, is Dancer, himself, armed with a high-powered rifle. Goldsmith is careful not to twist the set-up into an all-out action-cue, lacing jeopardy into the mix, instead, via the hit-man's whooshing phrase and little jabs of the drum-machine to emphasise the rounds that come smashing through the window. The track ends with a sad refrain for piano as the real danger of the goodies' predicament now slams home - the two cradling one another as Dancer regroups for another hit as soon as he can.

Track 10, Get Dancer, provides some more brutality. That alarming whooshing returns as the killer now stalks and murders Beth, drum-machine and glacial chords pivot around the short, but suspenseful cue. They Need Me, Track 11, shifts back a touch into the piano and strings of the main theme. Church and Della have now found romance amid the chaos of being hunted. The lonely trumpet warbles softly once more, but this time Goldsmith employs a gorgeous oboe to take over, backed by sweet woodwinds. This alternating mood swing may sound as though the composer is running on clockwork, but it all works extremely well, the story and the score see-sawing with equal measure between the two opposing sides and keeping us on our toes. More skulduggery and murder ensue in Track 12, Creep/Hello Roger, as someone else who was complicit in the affair meets with Dancer's emphatic disapproval. Drum-machine and high, shifting tones of inevitable threat give way to a very brief second cue signifying Dancer's escalating bodycount.

Lake Forest, Track 13, is an exciting little cue that gets the lengthy finale under way, with Church pursuing Dancer to the strains of the solo trumpet, now effecting a slightly more heroic cadence, and the hit-man's theme dovetailing into a combined suspense-filled voice that, along with some mid-section glistening elements from the keyboard, add a new strain to the mix. Now Dancer is not so indestructible and we can happily sit beside Church as he goes on the offensive. Dancer's trademark whooshing takes on a more Legend-like quality of etherealness in My Car, , Track 14, which continues this dynamic action set-piece, albeit with a slightly more exciting edge and a distinct step up in gear. And, barrelling straight on from this, comes Worth A Lot, which develops the familiar suspense motif and then supplies some wonderfully eerie electronic effects that certainly owe a lot to Legend, once again. Strange sizzling noises and an insect-like buzzing filter around the cue, literally dancing from left to right. This is captivating stuff because it plays like something out of a sci-fi movie, yet it contains just the right amount of dangerous unpredictability to signify the escalating madness of Dancer, who now wipes everybody connected with him.

Lights Out, Track 16, begins by upping the pace of the former madness, then it brings in more warped effects of sizzles, thrums, warbles and fantastical such-like before lurching with stark angular stabs of aggression. Church is now backed-up by his buddies arriving to seal Dancer off. The next track, Freeze/Flash Bomb, uses the main suspense theme, slightly re-worked and enhanced with Dancer's whooshing as our Burt and Remar battle it out. The tempo alters, but the pace accelerates, the sense of final closure being hammered home by Goldsmith via increased electronic violence. And then, once Church has managed to blow Dancer's head into smithereens with a bomb stashed in his helmet - quite an enjoyably nasty moment of justified retribution - we are treated to a brief interlude of respectful recognition for a fellow cop's heroism, Goldsmith stretching out a slight theme of dedicated duty with slow, relaxed drum-machine and the sort of phrase that denotes the beginning of missions-to-come. It's a dangerous world out there and, via Church's cool admiration for a rookie's bravery, Goldsmith seeks to reflect the earnest fact that all this is just in a day's work.

The score and the album is the rewarded to a loving rendition of the main, now love, theme. That big Conti-esque swagger is blissfully enhanced with drum-machine and strings, metallic synth-cooled xylophone and, naturally, that solo trumpet in full effect.

The album is rounded-out with three bonus tracks. The first is a re-edited version of This Is The Guy, Track 9, which recaptures the sequencing of cues from Intrada's original album release from 1988. Effectively, this removes the piano refrain and allows the cue to segue into A Good Cop, which is exactly as Goldsmith intended it for album release. And then we get to hear the two Christmas tracks from Church's undercover Santa sequences from early on in the film - Deck The Halls and Jingle-Bells. These two seasonal favourites are source cues that were actually arranged by co-orchestrator Nancy Beach and recorded by Goldsmith for the film.

It is worth noting that British composer Trevor Jones, who would go on to create such classic scores for The Last Of The Mohicans, The Dark Crystal, From Hell and many others, actually took a cue from Goldsmith, as well as synth-lord John Carpenter, for the same year's Runaway Train, fashioning a massively electronic soundtrack that, like Rent-a-Cop, also makes for a dynamic experience away from the film. But, without a doubt, it is down to the much-admired and influential elder statesman of the craft, that such newer composers were daring to mix and program such gleaming synth-derived sounds into mainstream scores. In fact, this period was the golden age of synthesised film music. Arguably John Carpenter has started the ball rolling, but pretty soon everyone was leaping on the electronic bandwagon. Harold Faltermeyer was hugely popular around this time, with the universally loved Axel F from Beverly Hills Cop and the superb synth-heavy score for Arnie's The Running Man. The latter came out the same year as Rent-a-Cop but was without the aid of an orchestra. It does, however, contain one of my all-time favourite synthesiser tracks in Mick's Broadcast/Attack - the final rousing action set-piece that is so deliciously exciting I can play all day long (and have) and never get tired of it. Arthur Rubinstein was busy lending sampled and tonal verve to Blue Thunder and Wargames. Alan Silvestri was programming a blistering theme for Chuck's The Delta Force and Craig Safan was bestowing techno-colour to both Remo: Unarmed And Dangerous and The Last Starfighter.

Intrada's new CD boasts fabulous production values and hails directly from the digital 2-track stereo masters mixed at CBS Studios in London. Although Goldsmith had never intended certain cues to be heard outside of the movie, it is with magnificent foresight that Intrada's Douglass Fake, who worked with the composer at the time of recording the score, made sure to preserve all the subsequently deleted material on high speed quarter-inch analog masters. What Jerry G. liked but could afford to discard now becomes treasure for his legions of fans.

An 8-page illustrated booklet of liner notes from Steven Y. Mori and technical talk from Douglass Fake make for intriguing reading, and add to this highly sought-after and limited edition package.

Track Listing -

01. Rent-A-Cop 2:21

02. The Bust 6:02

03. Late Trick 1:29

04. Lonely Cop 1:38

05. The Platform 1:06

06. The Room 3:16

07. Russian Roulette 1:39

08. The Station 2:52

09. This Is The Guy 3:22

10. Get Dancer 1:33

11. They Need Me 1:47

12. Creep; Hello Roger 1:09

13. Lake Forest 2:11

14. My Car 0:55

15. Worth A Lot 2:35

16. Lights Out 2:17

17. Freeze; Flash Bomb 1:45

18. A Good Cop 0:50

19. Jump 4:36

Total Score Time: 44:31

Bonus Track

20. This Is The Guy (Original 1988 Album Assembly) 3:56

Two Christmas Carols Arranged by Nancy Beach and Conducted by Jerry Goldsmith

21. Deck The Halls 1:07

22. Jingle Bells 1:36

Total Bonus Track Time: 6:49

With the excellent releases of Lonely Are The Brave and The Twilight Zone: The Movie from FSM recently, and Intrada's One Little Indian a few months ago, and the forthcoming complete score for Escape From The Planet Of The Apes, this is certainly turning into quite a boom-time for the late composer's work.

Rent-a-Cop's score is not what I would call classic Goldsmith, not by any stretch of the imagination. But it elevates the movie and provides it with pace, danger and character and takes on a life of its own. As an album, it serves as a terrific reminder of how immaculately versatile and accomplished the composer was in a field that many may have considered to have been either too young for him, or even out of his traditional league altogether. With the plethora of electronic scores that filled the cinemas during that period, Goldsmith's always stood out from the crowd. He incorporated some bold and overt synth-sounds, just like his contemporaries, but, unlike them, he was able to wrap them around melodic themes that held true to character. Personally speaking, this release is a great addition to an ever-growing collection of freshly unearthed and expanded scores from a man who has straddled every conceivable genre and placed his own inimitable stamp upon all of them.

This one fits right in alongside Extreme Prejudice, Under Fire and his renowned, though unused score for Alien Nation. A mediocre movie but a terrific score from the maestro. Goldsmith, once again, finds the essence of the story and paints it with a voice that brings it to life. Intrada's earlier release was shorn of much of the score's action cues, but this complete presentation restores them and provides fans with the best ever edition of the soundtrack. Reynolds, though by now a bit long in the tooth, was still a believably tough guy, but he was completely upstaged by Remar's relentless hit-man. Goldsmith sets up the dynamic of the cat-and-mouse game superbly and creates some great moments of suspense. With a memorable main title theme and an exquisite combination of synth and symph, Rent-a-Cop makes for a marvellous bridge between the likes of the more macho Extreme Prejudice and the rough 'n' tumble epic scope of Rambo III.

Well recommended for Goldsmith's fans.






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