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Rules of Engagement
Album Cover Art
Composed, Performed, and Produced by:

Performed by:
The London Metropolitan Orchestra
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Milan Records
(April 4th, 2000)
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Regular U.S. release.
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   Availability | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... only if you appreciated the brief militaristic ensemble performances as heard in the film, or if you've always enjoyed Mark Isham's 1983 album "Vapor Drawings."

Avoid it... if you expect any of the elements of this rather dull score to stand alongside the better music that Isham has provided the genre elsewhere.
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WRITTEN 3/28/00, REVISED 7/19/08
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Rules of Engagement: (Mark Isham) The career of director William Friedkin has, despite its great successes, been littered with forgettable, substandard entries. His 2000 film Rules of Engagement is no longer remembered as one of his projects, but rather the controversial adaptation of a story written by the then former Secretary of the Navy, Jim Webb, who would eventually achieve national fame through his unlikely win of a Senate seat from Virginia. He was so unhappy with Stephen Gaghan's screenplay and Friedkin's interpretation of his idea that he threatened to have his name removed from the project. Ultimately, the offensive material to Webb was removed, but at a cost of continuity in the film. Despite having talent all the way up and down the cast and crew, a confusing screenplay with numerous fallacies of logic doomed Rules of Engagement, not to mention the shifts between courtroom theatrics and extreme gore. The storyline follows the predictable path of an American Colonel prosecuted for murder when he orders lethal force to be used against Yemenese civilians who may or may not have posed a threat to the American ambassador there. Friedkin knew from the start exactly what kind of music he wanted to hear in Rules of Engagement. As a matter of fact, he had one specific piece of music in mind. He had been a fan of Mark Isham's composition "On the Threshold of Liberty" from his 1983 solo album "Vapor Drawings," and he used this piece as the temp track throughout this film (after yearning for years to find a suitable place for it in one of his projects). He was very pleased when Isham accepted the offer to actually score the entire film, adapting the previous work into the fresh soundtrack without attempting to alter its character or theme too dramatically. Isham's diverse career had never received much respect for its military components until the composer proved with the "Army Strong" commercial music of the late 2000's that he could rival the best at patriotic, orchestral majesty. To a minor extent, Rules of Engagement is a preview of that sound, but its execution, as well as the adaptation of the previous theme, is so restricted in scope and emotion that you end up with a rather mundane listening experience.

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Average: 2.52 Stars
***** 221 5 Stars
**** 179 4 Stars
*** 358 3 Stars
** 392 2 Stars
* 509 1 Stars
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Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
Total Time: 41:57
• 1. No Victories No Defeats (1:59)
• 2. Gulf of Aden (USS Wake Island)* (1:56)
• 3. The Evac (1:11)
• 4. Back to the World (1:50)
• 5. Heads or Tails (3:59)
• 6. Sana'a (1:56)
• 7. Investigation (2:06)
• 8. Katzi (3:04)
• 9. A Hail Mary (2:41)
• 10. Breach of Peace* (2:24)
• 11. Mrs. Mourain (0:37)
• 12. Rules of Engagement (On the Threshold of Liberty)** (6:12)
• 13. Semper Fidelis (Always Faithful) (4:11)
• 14. On the Threshold of Liberty*/** (7:27)
* not contained in film
** contains previously written material

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The insert contains the following note about the music by director William Friedkin:

    "Sometime in the mid 1980's, I heard an album called "Vapor Drawings" by Mark Isham. One track in particular stayed with me all these years and I've gone back to listen to it repeatedly. The track is called "On the Threshold of Liberty," and I've wanted to use it in a film since I heard it, but never really had anything that I thought "deserved" this sort of patriotic, wistful, ironic and beautiful melody reminiscent of the music of Aaron Copland. Mark Isham composed and arranged this piece as well as having played the trumpet solo, and over the years I've come to admire his work as a soloist as much as his compositions.

    We had never met until about a year ago at a small dinner party in the Rocky Mountains. I told Mark how much I loved "On the Threshold of Liberty" and asked him on the spot to write a score for Rules of Engagement.

    When Mark saw the film, he agreed and proceeded to take on the unusual assignment of revisiting and rearranging a piece of music he had originally composed some fifteen years ago. Since I was using this track to temp dub the film, Mark knew it was safer to try and work with it than convince me to replace it because directors notoriously fall in love with their temps (i.e., Strauss' "Thus Spoke Zarathustra" in Kubrick's 2001) and can't adjust to anything that's meant to replace it.

    None of this should take away from the fact that Mark has enhanced this theme with a lush and pulse-pounding score that underlines the mood of the film."
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or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from Rules of Engagement are Copyright © 2000, Milan Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/28/00 and last updated 7/19/08.
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