‘Tis the season for January new releases. Known as a veritable wasteland of movie projects which studios have no faith in, a January release is usually a bad sign for the film and the audience. Enter “The Rhythm Section”, a globe-trotting revenge thriller with some interesting names attached. Unfortunately it feels right at home among the usual January movie doldrums.
Revenge thrillers are a dime a dozen these days and finding one that can stamp its own identity is pretty rare. “The Rhythm Section” looked promising. A gritty female-led tale of vengeance featuring Blake Lively, Jude Law, and Sterling K. Brown sounds alright. But 30 minutes into it I was still looking for a spark, something to energize a movie that frankly never generates any real excitement or suspense.￼￼
“The Rhythm Section” comes from cinematographer turned director Reed Morano and from a screenplay written by Mark Burnell (adapting his own novel). In it Lively plays Stephanie Patrick, a former Oxford student with a bright future. But that life is gone following a plane crash that killed her entire family, a plane she too was supposed to be on. The tragedy sent her spiraling into a world of depression, prostitution and heroin addiction. We don’t see how she got there. Instead the first act spends most of its time showing her in various states of misery.
She’s contacted by a journalist named Proctor (Raza Jeffrey) who has information that the plane her family died on was actually blown out of the sky by a terrorist’s bomb. He identifies the bombmaker who was doing the bidding of an unidentified higher-up who ordered the bombing. Stephanie wants payback but going from street worker to avenging angel is no easy task.
Enter Boyd (Jude Law), a disgraced MI6 agent living off the grid in a remote part of Scotland. If you need quick lessons on how to become an assassin he’s the kind of hard-nosed guy you go see. After some tried-and-true, cliche training sequences Stephanie heads out, tracks down Sterling K. Brown who plays a pretty hilarious (unintentionally) CIA operative and information broker, and sets her sites on the terrorists responsible for her family’s death.
You have to give Lively a lot of credit. She really commits to her role, deglamorizing to the extreme and squeezing whatever emotion she can out of the character she’s given. Unfortunately her performance is undercut by a script that is painfully dull. You can see what it’s trying to be, but it never gets there and sadly Lively is the biggest causality. She deserves better. As for Law, he’s kinda fun but you can’t help but think he’s cashing a check or doing a favor.
As for the action, there is nothing to it that really sticks with you. The lone exception is an inspired scene involving a car chase where the camera sits in the passenger seat next to Lively. It plays like one continuous take with the camera looking out the front windshield, panning to Lively driving, looking out the back, and so on. It’s a relatively short scene ￼but visually impressive. Everything else is pretty run-of-the-mill.
Part Bourne, part Bond but with none of the vigor or personality of either, “The Rhythm Section” has some good ideas but not enough original ones. And despite a determined Blake Lively performance, the bland low-energy script simply can’t match the film’s ambition. I really wanted to like this movie, but wading through the implausibility and monotony proved to be chore.
VERDICT – 2 STARS