Directed by: Reed Morano
Premise: A woman (Blake Lively) who lost her family in a terrorist bombing is taken in by an assassin (Jude Law) who trains her to go after the people who plotted the attack.
What Works: The Rhythm Section is an action picture in the vein of films Peppermint and American Assassin. It’s not intended to be a serious drama about the problem of terrorism. This is a revenge flick and as such it is about trauma and catharsis. The extent to which The Rhythm Section succeeds is largely due to Blake Lively’s performance. We meet this character at her all-time low but she’s animated to action when a reporter reveals that the plane crash that killed her family was actually a terrorist bombing. The heroine must face her grief and anxiety and Lively carries that anguish throughout her performance. Her character is a fish-out-of-water, suddenly thrust into a world of assassins and espionage and the film doesn’t take violence for granted. Lively’s character struggles with killing and that, combined with her grief, gives the movie some emotional credibility. The action scenes of The Rhythm Section are serviceable and admirably restrained. The set pieces are kept within a reasonable scale and there is one outstanding car chase that is mostly shot from inside the cab of the vehicle.
What Doesn’t: The Rhythm Section has several problems but the primary issue is its tone. The movie is not to be taken as a serious terrorism drama but at times it clearly wants to be. The Rhythm Section features the sensibilities of both Taken and Munich; the filmmakers want to have fun with this material but they also want to deal with the consequences of violence and the moral ambiguity of revenge. These competing priorities never coalesce because they can’t; the grief makes the violence consequential which prevents it from being popcorn entertainment. The Rhythm Section faces a related problem with its credibility. A lot of this story just doesn’t make sense. To start with, Lively’s character is introduced as a broken woman who is working as a prostitute in a hole in the wall but we’re told that she was a happy, sheltered, middle class college student before the bombing. Even given her loss, that’s an incredible leap. Lively’s character is contacted by a reporter who takes her in and reveals the truth. He doesn’t really need this woman for his story and the reporter’s only motivation for laying out the entire conspiracy for her is to kick start the plot. The rest of the film has similarly illogical leaps with the characters jetting around the world and finding their targets very easily.
DVD extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes.
Bottom Line: The Rhythm Section has a strong performance by Blake Lively and some competent action scenes but it is trying to be two different kinds of movies at once and it never really succeeds at either.
Episode: #799 (May 3, 2020)