The Rhythm Section is a mostly generic revenge thriller, but it does have its moments and is led by an emotionally charged Blake Lively.
After her family is tragically killed in a plane crash, Stephanie Patrick is swallowed up by the world of prostitution and addiction. However, when an investigative journalist proves to her the plane crash her family died in was no mechanical failure, but a consequence of terrorism, she takes the path of a vigilante seeking justice for the victims of the crash.
When we are introduced to Blake Lively as Stephanie, I was reminded of how we are introduced to Nicole Kidman in last year’s Destroyer; her hair is chopped, and she is pale and bruised. One quip I found kind of funny is, “You can’t have sex with me.” “Thank god.” “Fuck you.” However, where Lively’s Stephanie Patrick differs from Kidman’s Erin Bell, is instead of this backward development where we explore the past, we follow Stephanie in real time as she works to becoming the stone-cold killer we see at the end of the film. The Rhythm Section’s story, driven by the development of its core character, only works because of the raw performance from Lively. Another performance worth noting comes from Jude Law, who plays a former MI6 agent that trains Patrick to become a survivor. He is great at being condescending and the parts of the film which include him are the best.
Directed by cinematographer Reed Morano, The Rhythm Section is more focused on telling its story through the use of imagery and shot choice rather than dialogue. We receive many centered frames of a despondent Blake Lively or the occasional wide/landscape shot showcasing the beauty of nature. There’s a sequence early in the film where Lively smokes a cigarette, with a fair amount of focus on the smoke, reaffirming smoking as the peak cinematic aesthetic. The film, under all of its brooding and dreariness, tries to fool us into thinking it’s beautiful.
The issue The Rhythm Section suffers from the most is it’s all over the place, and I’m not referring to its map-hopping nature which features several settings including New York, Madrid, Tangier, etc. The editing is subpar, with unnecessary uses of fades and a failure to fully blend with the more stylistic angle choices in the cinematography. The film’s soundtrack sharply contrasts the tone, and often comes out of nowhere before ending abruptly; the first time it happened, I was caught off guard but eventually I just found it endearing. In the latter half of the film, I became a little lost in the plot as names began to feel as if they were piling up, and the whole thing felt a touch contrived.
Initially buzzed as a female James Bond, which I think Blake Lively could totally pull off if she were British, only to be left behind in January, The Rhythm Section just set a record this past weekend – lowest domestic box office opening for a movie opening in over 3,000 theaters. I almost feel bad. In all fairness, I believe the film should become a solid streaming option within the coming months. I went into the theater with modest expectations, and those expectations were largely met; there’s a well-choreographed knife fight and a one-take car chase for action fans. If only The Rhythm Section had found its tempo. 6/10