Directed by Reed Morano
January 31, 2020
A woman gets a chance to exact revenge on the people behind the plane bombing that killed her family after learning the plane crash was actually a terrorist attack.
The Rhythm Section is not bad, but it just is not great. It seems to lack a little something. It did not feel strong enough for a theatrical release. It felt like a well-produced television movie or the penultimate episode of some drama. The plot was slow to the point of being paced like the long arc of a television series. The films Anna and Red Sparrow, both female centered spy thrillers, were much faster moving films. This story just drags its feet to get to the finish and honestly the payoff is just meh.
As a revenge thriller it just did not quite click. It was almost there but the story lacked real tension. Our central character Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) did not come off as angry enough, I think. What she was given made her feel broken rather than broken and damaged. She is busy blaming herself and on a path of self-destruction. From being wealthy and comfortable to a drug addicted prostitute in three years is a heck of a fall. It suggests the character’s life was not all that together to begin with and I am curious how she was able to pull herself together enough to hunt and kill spies. The shift from self-destruction to seeking revenge felt abrupt.
Lively did a decent job. I cannot fault her efforts here nor can I fault the efforts of Jude Law or anyone else connected to this film. They all did good with their material. It is just that the material failed to live up to the genre despite the EON Productions pedigree. You would think the Bond producers could put either a good thriller together or a good spy film, but this fails to be either. It simply goes through the motions and checks off a list.
Perhaps it is because this film was produced by EON Productions who are the minds behind the James Bond films. I expected something a little more exciting and faster paced but the film is slow and took too much time to get to anything. Maybe it wanted to be a character piece, but the marketing definitely pushed it as something else. The commercials looked as if it was an action-oriented film that did not talk down to the audience in a manner similar to Lucy.
The side missions that Stephanie was sent on by Boyd (Jude Law) were either to prep her for the end kill or get her closer to the target, but they felt a little unnecessary. They just did not feel as if they really connected to the story. They did not enlighten the plot. Their significance was spelled out by Boyd in voiceover and they only served to add action scenes to the film. And they were not tense or exciting. There was no sense of danger or importance.
Stephanie is supposed to be going into a dark and dangerous world but the characters in this world felt like cold jerks and not lethal individuals. Being an a-hole does not make you lethal. At least with nothing to really back it up. And those characters were tied to nothing other than terrorism. Fine but what kind of terrorism? I do not need a real group, but it felt like they were terrorists in much the same way a person might become an accountant or work at BK. These were no ideologically driven people in any sense. Even the villains in Bond believe in something.
Which brings me to something else: were they going for realistic? Stephanie is not particularly good at the physical aspects of her job. She is also not particularly good in the beginning of handling the intellectual aspects in knowing what to do. She stumbles. A mistake or bad moment usually works to give the character something to come back from, but Stephanie never really improves.
The twist at the end did not provide for a satisfying ending. The story is focused on an individual referred to only as ‘U-17.’ This individual was responsible for getting the bomb on the plane that killed Stephanie’s parents. They are not a true believer in the cause but whatever that ill-defined cause is never gets explained. It is just a thing. Their goal appears to be chaos and nothing more. That may avoid offending a particular group, but it also hinders the story.
Sterling K. Brown is a solid actor but here is a bit wasted as Marc Serra who is a former CIA officer that now makes a living as a private intelligence dealer. That he is U-17 feels a bit tacked on and the logic that leads to him being this feels suspect. Worse, the death of this big bad is rather underwhelming. U-17 is built up (poorly) during the film and dies via syringe after a brief tussle. Not a drag out fight but a tussle.
Nor did the final meeting between Boyd and Stephanie satisfy. It felt as if the movie just stopped. The creators had a need for an ending and thought stern words was a good cap to it all. After the anticlimactic death of the villain this brought things down further. If this was how it happened in the book of the same name that this was based on, then doing a direct translation to screen was a bad idea. What works in a book does not always work in a movie.
The movie looked good but the story or perhaps just the execution lacked. Perhaps it is in part due to the title deriving its name from the main character’s musical abilities, yet they never really connect that to the story in any memorable way. Boyd brings it up when he’s training her to shoot and it’s replayed in a voiceover later on in the film but other than that I’m not sure if she ever picks up an instrument or is seen looking at music. They spend more time integrating her knowledge of language into the story than anything else.
The Rhythm Section fails to deliver. I am not sure what could fix it, but it needed fixing before cameras started rolling. Not an entirely disappointing movie but not an entirely satisfying one either. This is not a must see. Skip it!