Review by Sean Boelman
Based on the novel by Mark Burnell, The Rhythm Section hopes to be an action-packed starring vehicle for its lead actress Blake Lively (A Simple Favor). However, despite the efforts of its talented cast, Burnell’s script and Reed Morano’s direction is simply too bland for the movie to live up to its full potential.
The film follows a young woman as she trains to seek revenge against those who plotted a plane crash that resulted in the death of her family. In many ways, this is a very run-of-the-mill revenge thriller, albeit with a somewhat more realistic edge. Unlike pretty much every movie in the genre, the protagonist of this film struggles for the entire narrative rather than becoming an action hero after the first training montage.
However, with this comes a whole slew of other issues, the chief of which is poor pacing. The whole point of the movie is that the protagonist is woefully unfit to be doing this, and many of the action sequences feature her failing in an embarrassing way. Yet since the film is not comedic in any way, it plays out like a series of awkward and lame action sequences.
The bleak tone of the movie is also frequently overbearing. Although there are some sequences that shine, one can’t help but feel like this film should have been a whole lot more fun, particularly from the producers that make the 007 series. Instead, the script moves along at a pace that would generously be described as glacial and the action sequences are spread few and far between.
Director Reed Morano attempts to bring a stylish edge to the movie, and while some parts of her vision shine through, such as the excellent soundtrack (when used to its full extent), others are so overwhelmingly dark that they become unpleasant. One can only take so much shaky cam shot in grey tones before becoming entirely desensitized to the film’s visuals.
Additionally, the character development in the movie is somewhat underwhelming. Very little is done to develop the protagonist apart from her generic backstory involving her family’s death. And since the film is set in the espionage underworld of mysterious figures, none of the supporting characters are fleshed out either.
It really is a shame that the script is so weak, because the cast that was assembled for the movie is absolutely great. In the few good action sequences that the film contains, Lively proves that she is able to be an action star. She is able to command the screen and surprisingly infuses some life into the uninspired choreography. Her chemistry with supporting actors Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown is also very good.
As a whole, The Rhythm Section is a massive disappointment. Even though it had one of the most intriguing trailers of any release for this year, and it seemed like it should have been a hit on paper, it’s really just another January thriller hoping to draw butts to seats instead of the Big Game.
The Rhythm Section opens in theaters on January 31.