James Jay Edwards reviews The Rhythm Section starring Blake Lively, an average revenge movie with a noteworthy car chase.
From fighting sharks in The Shallows to defying time in The Age of Adaline, Hollywood starlet Blake Lively seems to have done it all. But you’ve never seen the Blake Lively that shows up in The Rhythm Section.
The Rhythm Section stars Lively as Stephanie Patrick, a young woman whose entire family was killed when a terrorist planted a bomb on the plane upon which they were traveling. Stephanie spirals down into depression and addiction before meeting a journalist named Keith Proctor (Code Black’s Raza Jaffrey) who claims to have uncovered who is responsible for the bombing. With the help of Proctor’s source, an MI6 agent named Iain Boyd (Jude Law from The Talented Mr. Ripley), Stephanie descends into a dark underworld populated with terrorists and assassins in order to track down and take out her family’s killers.
(The Rhythm Section theatrical release poster; Paramount Pictures)
So, The Rhythm Section is basically a revenge story with a few detours into cloak & dagger mystery territory. Writer Mark Burnell adapted his own novel into the screenplay, and director Reed Morano, best known for her episodes of The Handmaid’s Tale, projects the vision onto the screen. It’s a tough movie to pin down, because it pretends to be an action movie, but leans much harder into the suspense and intrigue of the narrative, so it comes off as a bit loose with its tone. Not exciting enough for an action flick, but not clever enough to be a compelling mystery.
There are a handful of good action scenes in The Rhythm Section though, and Morano, a cinematographer herself before making the jump to director, manages to capture the dizzying chaos and visceral rush of each moment. Unfortunately, these moments are few and far between, shots of adrenaline spaced out between long stretches of heavily expositional dialogue and thinly manufactured emotion. That being said, there is a car chase about halfway through that is alone worth the price of admission, ranking right up there with the most legendary automotive scenes from Bullitt and The French Connection.
Blake Lively’s performance in The Rhythm Section is middle-of-the-road. The character of Stephanie Patrick is a bit of a departure for Lively, and while her transformation is not quite chameleonic, it is impressive in its own way. It’s a good performance, but not as great as audiences have come to expect from the actress. Lively is somewhat hindered by the lack of character development in the script – there is no performance brilliant enough to convince an audience that a woman can go from junkie prostitute to skilled operative in such a short amount of time without even the benefit of a training montage. While Lively doesn’t achieve Charlize Theron-in-Atomic Blonde levels of badassness, she does do better than Jennifer Lawrence in Red Sparrow.
A couple of years ago, social media watchers might remember Blake Lively’s husband, Ryan Reynolds, hysterically posting a picture of her on Instagram in dirty frumpy clothing looking less than glamorous with the hashtag #NoFilter (both Lively and Reynolds are amazing Insta follows, by the way – they troll each other endlessly and lovingly). This is that movie. It’s taken more than two years to make, and for that amount of time, it should be better. But at least we get to see Lively spread her wings, and there’s always that awesome car chase.