Mean Guns

Tony Riparetti

" Any questions?....Yes, where can I get this CD? "

Written by Alan Rogers - Review of the limited release

Near the beginning of Albert Pyun's 1997 low-budget crime thriller Mean Guns, Syndicate boss Vincent Moon (Ice-T) is explaining the “rules of engagement” to 100 criminals he has brought together in a newly-built prison. Rather than have these individuals (who have at one-time-or-another crossed Moon) killed he offers a pot of $10 million to the three remaining people who can survive the to-the-death game that is about to start. When Moon asks for any questions, Lou (played by Christopher Lambert) pipes up, “Yes...where can I get this CD?”. Vincent Moon is a fan of Cuban mambo-style music and constantly plays mambo CDs through the prison's PA system during the course of the film. Lou's question refers to the music heard through the PA system that is also heard on the film's soundtrack. This film's soundtrack is one that frequently blurs the line between what is non-diagetic (traditional film scoring) and diagetic music (music heard by the film's characters). At the time of the film's release there were several calls of the release of this score because of its distinctive music (and its use) and Howlin' Wolf Records have now released Tony Riparetti's mambo-styled score on CD which features Riparetti's score as well re-recordings of a couple of mambo songs featured in the film.

For the score to Mean Guns Tony Riparetti (Pyun's long-term composing partner) takes his inspiration from Ice-T's character's love for mambo meaning that, when the mambo songs are not being heard over the prison's PA system, the score features music written in the mambo style. Track after track is a joy to listen to, being infused with catchy rhythms, wonderfully exuberant brass playing plus the inclusion of some great vocals (lyric-based as well as vocal effect). The score kicks off with “Jose”. A staple mambo song written by Perez Prado and brought right up to date by Riparetti (and additional musical arrangers/orchestrators), “Jose” underscores the first scene of the movie and immediately blurs the divide between film soundtrack and diagetic music by being referenced by Ice-T's character. Cues such as “Mambo Mambo” and “The Elevator” are other examples where the music moves between being music in the film and music for the film. One of the key roles of the use of mambo is to use the rhythms to inject energy and momentum to the numerous action sequences, some of which – as detailed in Zach Tow's informative booklet notes – are particularly violent. For example, the Latin-styled combination of Latin rhythms, Tequila guitars and vocals of “Chupacabra” (though more “traditional” pop-styled than mambo) seems at odds with a savage beating by baseball bat in one scene and the Enrique Madriguera-penned song “Adios” adds a formal ballroom feel to a scene where everyone receives guns and ammunition leading to a “dance of death”. “Loco” (co-written by Paul Edwards) is another mambo song that (like the majority of the Mean Guns soundtrack) works well as a stand-alone listen and accompanies a huge showdown between various criminal factions.

Although mambo is the predominant influence for this score, the 50-minute album is far from being a one-style experience. Mambo is itself made up of several different styles: hip-hop mambo, punk mambo, metal mambo as well as classic mambo are all variations of this versatile musical form. Both “Es La Hora de La Verdad” and “The Pictures” are good examples of Riparetti's use of these different styles and slows the pace right down for more reflective moments in the film. The latter track features Spanish guitar which adds a nice additional colour to the driving mambo track music. The use of Spanish guitars features in a portion of the score that leaves the mambo style behind. Here there is a more traditional style of dramatic scoring. Saved for significant showdown moments in the film, tracks such as “The First Showdown” and “The Bell Tolls” are heavily influenced by Ennio Morricone's music for spaghetti westerns. Dramatic acoustic guitar, “spaghetti western strings” and even appropriately-placed tolling bells all conjure up the wonderful showdown scenes from a number of Sergio Leone films. “The Bell Tolls” segues straight into “Big Showdown” with its wordless vocals and blaring Spanish trumpets that, together with the acoustic guitar, reinforces the classic western references.

At the early stages of this film's production Pyun was looking to add a unique style to his film and, upon hearing some mambo songs, he was so keen to use mambo that he reworked the script to include this style of music (associated with Ice-T's character). The combination of the film's over-the-top brutality, distinct lack of blood even in the most violent scenes and the use of music that seems, on the face of it, completely at odds with the film's subject matter, all add to darkly comedic (almost slapstick) feel of the film. At the time of the film's release, the music was raised frequently as a talking point with one reviewer suggesting that the music elevating the film from a run-of-the-mill crime thriller to a worthy parody of the genre itself by juxtaposing the violence on screen with the mambo style of music – music usually associated with strong emotions such as love or lust. Regardless of the film-makers' underlying ideas for the film, Tony Riparetti's score for Mean Guns is a hugely enjoyable listen on CD. The majority of the tracks play as self-contained musical pieces that have a life away from the film. Fifteen years after Christopher Lambert's character first asked, “where can I get this CD?”, an answer can now be given: “From Howlin' Wolf Records.”

Track Listing

1. Jose (2.41)
(Perez Prado)
2. Adios (3.06)
(Enrique Madriguera & Eddie Woods)
3. Esta Noche Sin Ti (2.17)
(Tony Riparetti, Steve Le Gassick & Robert Amaral)
4. Chupacabra (1.56)
(Tony Riparetti & Steve Le Gassick)
5. Mambo Mambo (0.38)
(Tony Riparetti, Steve Le Gassick & Robert Amaral)
6. Es La Hora De La Verdad (0.49)
(Tony Riparetti, Steve Le Gassick & Robert Amaral)
7. Loco (6.29)
(Tony Riparetti, Paul Edwards & Robert Amaral)
8. Salsipuedes (2.18)
9. Land of Illusions (4.23)
(Tony Riparetti & Steve Le Gassick)
10. Barb's Fight (2.18)
11. The Elevator (3.09)
(Paul Edwards)
12. Parking Lot (2.11)
13. The Chase (1.32)
14. Lou's Theme (1.00)
15. Rules of The Game (1.30)
16. Cover My Butt (1.22)
17. The First Showdown (3.00)
18. Hoss and Crow (1.21)
19. Up To Bat (1.27)
(Tony Riparetti & Steve Le Gassick)
20. The Pictures (2.02)
21. The Bell Tolls (1.35)
22. Big Showdown (0.35)
23. Vamanos (1.42)
(Paul Edwards)

Total Length: 49.32
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 8 votes - average 4.31/5)

Released by

Howlin’ Wolf Records HWRCD-008 (limited release 2012)


Tony Riparetti


Tony Riparetti, Paul Edwards, Steve Le Gassick


Jeff Lewis, Walt Fowler, Chris Tedesco


Mitch Reilly, Phil Feather, Chris Bleth, Brandon Fields


Paul Edwards, Fate Edgeman

Background vocals

Tony Riparetti, Paul Edwards, Steve Le Gassick, Glen Carlos, Stan Hunter


Fate Edgeman