Female led action movies aren’t exactly in short supply these days, but they’re also not as numerous as some might prefer. So, it was encouraging that 2020 would be starting off with a few such productions even though they were released in the dump month of January. “Underwater” was more of a horror thriller action mix, but “The Rhythm Section” is more pure action focusing on a young woman, played by Blake Lively, who sets out to seek revenge on the people responsible for the plane crash that killed her family. Written by the author of the book it was based on, Mark Burnell, and directed by cinematographer Reed Morano, “The Rhythm Section” might have never been destined for “must-see” status but it intrigued me enough to give it a try. Does this action drama offer something new or does it just simply follow the same beats as its predecessors? Lets’ find out. This is my review of “The Rhythm Section”.
So “The Rhythm Section” isn’t a bad movie per say…it’s just not very memorable. Before going into its flaws I’ll say that it has some beautiful moments which should be not surprise seeing as Reed Morano was a cinematographer before she was a director. There are a lot of eye catching and beautiful shots in this movie, but good cinematography does not make up for lackluster storytelling. What does make up for it is some decent acting from Blake Lively who continues to prove she is leading lady material by fully embracing her role as Stephanie, a young woman who decides to take matters into her own hands in seeking revenge against the men responsible for the plane crash that killed her family. “The Rhythm Section” shows Stephanie’s evolution from a depressed, drug-using prostitute to a confident, capable and determined assassin with nothing to lose. Lively keeps you heavily engaged with a gripping take on a broken but human soul.
Unfortunately, there’s not much else that makes “The Rhythm Section” stand out. Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown play larger supporting roles but neither are at their best and the action, while enjoyable, is predictable and reminiscent of a thousand better genre pieces from recent years. The film even fails to live up to its own advice. The name of the movie comes from Jude Law’s character coaching Blake Lively’s in how to shoot a gun encouraging her to gain control of her “rhythm section”, meaning her heart and her breath in unison. Sadly, the movie can’t really find that balance itself and, to push the limits of my pun quota, chooses to stick to some pretty basic beats rather than exploring the entire drum kit. “The Rhythm Section” has patience and heart but rarely embraces both at the same time making it difficult to enjoy the action because it takes too long to get to and difficult to appreciate the heartbreak and drama of its narrative because there’s far too little exploration of Stephanie’s humanity.
It’s not for a lack of trying. One thing I genuinely appreciated about the movie was that it takes time to show us Stephanie’s evolution as an assassin and even after she is sent out into the field she’s shown to be an imperfect human who makes mistakes and pays for them…although she’s still seemingly invincible. It’s nice to see a vulnerable and flawed hero or heroine front and center, but sadly the story and direction focuses so much on her preparation for revenge that once again I have to point out how the action set pieces, some impressively shot in seemingly single takes, and the emotional moments where Stephanie reminisces on her family are lost in the shuffle. Too much set up and not enough pay off is basically what I’m getting at here. I could sum up this movie easily with one sentence: flashes of brilliance overshadowed by overwhelming monotony.
“The Rhythm Section” isn’t a terrible movie or really a truly bad movie, nor is it boring. It’s just predictable, derivative, and needed more energy to really become a memorable experience. Reed Morano certainly flexes her talent for cinematic visuals and flair and Blake Lively is a standout whose performance is one of the most gripping elements of the film, but despite some flair and fun visual style “The Rhythm Section” still marches to the beat of the same drum as past, far superior efforts in the genre. This is one of those movies where I didn’t hate it but I wasn’t anywhere near blown away by it either. At best it’s a decent, if forgettable, waste of time.