First things first, what the heck is The Rhythm Section anyway? Is it a music drama? Unfortunately, the otherwise vague title turns out to be a revenge-themed espionage action thriller after all. And at around 40 minutes into the movie, one of the characters did explain the meaning of the title. But really, it hardly matters since this potential franchise starter based upon Mark Burnell’s series of books is sadly dead on arrival.
At the beginning of the movie, we learn that Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) is a broken woman living at the lowest point of her life while struggling with drug addiction and working as a prostitute. She used to live a happy life until her family died tragically in a plane crash three years ago.
Then, one day she finds out from a journalist named Keith Proctor (Raza Jaffrey) telling her that the plane crash was actually a coordinated terrorist attack. So, in order to find the person responsible for the bombing, she locates a former MI6 agent (Jude Law’s Iain Boyd, in a strong supporting turn) from Proctor’s sources and learns how to fight and shoot like a pro.
Judging from the premise, a movie about a vengeful woman who has nothing to lose starring Blake Lively should have been a crowd-pleaser. She certainly gives her all in terms of appearance from sporting Anne Parillaud-like pixie hairstyle seen in Luc Besson’s La Femme Nikita (1990) to de-glamorising her usual photogenic self with a dishevelled look earlier in the movie. She even goes as far as pushing her physicality in handling her own stunts to the point she injured her hand during filming — a result that caused the production halted for months just to wait for her recovery.
And yet, for all her hard work and total commitment, she is ultimately bogged down by Mark Burnell’s own hopelessly banal script and Reed Morano’s largely ineffective direction. The movie somehow limps from one scene to another, with the 109-minute running time feels longer than it should. The pacing is off and even there are some technically-impressive action sequences, notably the single-take car chase scene takes place entirely from the passenger seat’s point-of-view, I found them lacking the necessary visceral impact. Or to put it bluntly, it all feels strangely uninvolving.
Frankly, Blake Lively deserved better than this colossal letdown of a movie.