In Brief: Outside of a great performance from Blake Lively there is not a lot of rhythm in this rhythm section.
By itself the title The Rhythm Section makes no sense. You’re never told but in novelist Mark Burnell’s book, the rhythm section is how the heart and the lungs work together.
Burnell also wrote the screenplay and has adapted his 1999 book into this movie. I read the synopsis and it appears he’s made all kinds of changes to the plot. While it’s like his book, it’s also not. Since it’s Burnell’s own work I guess that’s forgivable but in this book — and his other books featuring this heroine — Stephanie Patrick is much more interesting than she appears in this movie.
Barbara Broccoli and some of the James Bond series producers are involved in the project and produce. That could explain some of why Burnell made plot changes from the book to the movie.
Whatever happened, The Rhythm Section is a thriller about a woman whose family is killed when a terrorist blows up a plane killing them and over 120 others. Patrick was supposed to be on that plane.
A guilt ridden Patrick sinks into drugs and prostitution until a reporter who has been investigating the incident finds her. He tells her terrorists did the deed and that the British government and the U.S. government are hiding that fact.
Politics apparently trump justice.
Eventually Stephanie takes his clues and starts tracking the killers. It takes her to Scotland where she encounters a man who is ex-MI-6. He’s the guy who put the reporter on a track to find the terrorists responsible for the bombing. She’s desperate to find those that killed her family so the man reluctantly trains her to become an agent and a killer. Then he sends her out to get the justice she seeks.
It turns out that Stephanie isn’t all that good at vengeance.
Blake Lively (TV’s Gossip Girl) stars along with Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown and a bunch of bit players you’ve never heard of and won’t likely see again. Wearing a shag cut reminiscent of Bridget Fonda in 1993’s Point of No Return, and donning that character’s persona, Lively’s Stephanie steps clumsily into a totally foreign world.
The key word is clumsily. She’s so terrible at the game of spying that in real life she’d have been dead in a heartbeat. Since it’s a movie, and she’s the heroine and main character, Lively’s Stephanie lives.
In spite of the action sequences where she overdoes the whining and gasping, Lively is a very talented actress and is pretty good in the part. I have never seen Gossip Girl but did love her in the Hitchcock-like flick A Simple Favor from 2018.
She’s mastered the art of giving a character multiple dimensions without saying much. That’s an important talent to have considering Patrick doesn’t have much to do except look tortured, confused or dangerous.
Outside of her performance there is a lot to like about The Rhythm Section and a lot not to like. Director Reed Morano — who won a Prime Time Emmy for The Handmaiden’s Tale — puts some action sequences in her film that will have you gripping the arm rest of your theater seat and holding your breath.
They’re very, very good.
These and other things you like about The Rhythm Section are neutralized by what you won’t. The movie borrows heavily from the 1990 thriller, La Femme Nikita and the aforementioned sanitized American version of the film, Point of No Return. Burnell and Morano and the producers also take from flicks like 2018’s Red Sparrow and a few others.
Outside of some great action sequences, Morano’s film crawls so slowly that it makes her 109 minute movie seem way longer. That may be part of the reason the movie sat on the shelf and is being released almost a year after first planned.
From what I read in the synopsis, Burnell’s book is a lot more original. Nothing is in this movie. Since the Broccoli family is involved — and if this film hits a rhythm of its own and does well at the box office — you will likely see sequels.
A lot of them.
The climax gives the producers that option. Maybe they’ll steal a little less from other films and do Burnell’s books like they were written. Though the books seem like they’re a spy thriller soap opera, his ideas for this character and her life are a lot better than this movie.
So as it stands let’s just say The Rhythm Section has very little rhythm.
Director: Reed Morano
Stars: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown
This one makes you wonder why they didn’t just do Mark Burnell’s book as he wrote it. The synopsis seems much, much better than what got done. And it sat on a movie shelf for almost a year before the producers finally released the movie. Also not a good sign. Give The Rhythm Section a 2 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
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Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.