A drama set in a Latino neighbourhood in Washington D.C., We Die Young follows Lucas, a 14-year-old boy who is caught up in gang life and is determined that his 10-year-old brother won’t follow him down the same road. An Afghanistan war veteran (played by Jean Claude Van Damme), recently moved into the area, comes to the aid of the two brothers and all must flee from the Latino street gang. We Die Young is notable for Van Damme’s portrayal of the war veteran who is rendered mute because of a throat injury he received as a soldier.
We Die Young is scored by US-based, Israeli-born composer Erez Koskas who has written a taught score that has a heavy emphasis on drums and percussion. Koskas, who began his musical career as a drummer, uses rhythm as the foundation for much of the score using different tempos and various rhythm patterns as the backdrop for other instruments to provide varying dramatic and emotional qualities. The opening two tracks of the album – “Opening Scene” and “Daniel At the Alley” – establish the sound palette of the score. Fast urgent rhythms (“Opening Scene”, “Jester Taking Them to Rincon”) mixes with slower-paced rhythms (“Miguel’s Jump In”) as we hear track after track featuring prominent percussion beats, sometimes in isolation. Economic use of low string accents or bold brass hits (e.g., “Car Chase”) adds tension or foreboding to the score that contributes to a welcomed emotional aspect to the rhythms. Backing of the percussion with sustained low tones and ambient synths in other tracks (“It’s Gotta Be the Kid”, “Jester Taking Them to Rincon”) is another tool the composer uses to add mood and all these various elements occasionally come together in tracks such as the 7-minute “Shoot Out”.
Thematically, strings are the main provider of anything that would be considered thematic. A short string motif is heard on occasions and appears to be associated with Van Damme’s character, Daniel (“Afghanistan Flashback”, “Daniel At the Alley”). “Daniel Theme (Shoot Out)” and “Afghanistan Last Scene” do both feature extensive string writing that adds a level of sadness and is a further breath of fresh air and so liberating when heard amongst the rhythm-dominated score around them. The string writing in “Afghanistan Last Scene” is particularly effective emotionally, reminding me of some of George Delerue’s string writings. A solo soprano voice (“Miguel’s Jump In”, “Inside the Train”) and acoustic guitar gives the score added interest, particularly in “At the Church” where the guitar plays a lighter and rather reflective melody that is heard later (“Daniel & Anna Final Scene”). This gives the score a human quality that is otherwise lacking.
A significant proportion of the score is just percussion elements with various additions that don’t really do very much. What there is is quite entertaining, but it is a bit static. Only occasionally is the score elevated on an emotional level and, because of the score’s reliance on percussion and rhythm, the appearance of melody and a human quality is amplified. In saying all of this, We Die Young did manage to maintain my attention over its 50+ minute running time which can be attributed to the talents of the composer to use his self-imposed orchestration limits in an interesting manner.
The album can be purchased at online stores as a digital download or to stream.
- Opening Scene (0:43)
- Daniel At the Alley (1:08)
- Lucas & Rincon Talking (3:00)
- It’s Gotta Be the Kid (0:48)
- Miguel’s Jump In (1:36)
- Family Pictures (1:28)
- Jester Taking Them to Rincon (1:57)
- Lucas & Miguel Escaping (1:52)
- Car Chase (2:25)
- Afghanistan Flashback (1:44)
- At the Church (2:50)
- I Gave You One Job (1:12)
- Rincon & Spider In the Kitchen (3:34)
- Sneaking In (1:31)
- Rodrigo Incriminates Lucas (1:35)
- Daniel & Anna Final Scene (5:54)
- No Miraré Hacia Atrás (Wedding Song) (3:22)
- Shoot Out (6:55)
- Daniel Theme (Shoot Out) (1:20)
- Train Tracks (3:45)
- Afghanistan Last Scene (2:19)
- Inside the Train (1:10)
- No Miraré Hacia Atrás (End Credits) (2:29)
Running Time: 54:37
Filmtrax Ltd. (2019)