Review: The Rhythm Section

Score: B-

Director: Reed Morano

Cast: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, Raza Jaffrey

Running Time: 109 Minutes

Rated: R

The Rhythm Section isn't quite in sync. It's got strong performances and intense action sequences, but its script has a lot of failings. It would be easy to assume something got lost in translation during the adaptation, but writer Mark Burnell adapted his own novel. Still, I'm recommending the film on the strength of what it does well.

Blake Lively has become a strong actress over the last five years, after entering the decade with the likes of Green Lantern and Savages – two of the worst movies of the 2010s. Lately she's proven herself in melodramas (The Age of Adaline), action movies (The Shallows) and thrillers (A Simple Favor). Here, she plays Stephanie, a woman still reeling from the death of her family in a plane crash. She's turned to drugs and prostitution to cope. (Kudos to the make-up artists for actually making one of the most beautiful women on the planet look like she's been through hell.)

When an investigative journalist (Raza Jaffrey) contacts her, claiming the plane crash wasn't an accident, she's initially skeptical, but tracks down his ex-intelligence contact B (Jude Law) to get more answers. B forces her to detox, training her to become an assassin. The first half of the film is its strongest, providing some much-needed comic relief. Once she's out in the field, the film twists and turns a few too many times, needlessly complicating what should be a lean revenge story.

The film does unveil a final surprise, but it hasn't done enough legwork to make it feel as devastating as it should. Everyone around her is a shady murderer. It's not a huge shock when one of them turns out to be the bad guy she's been searching for.

But the film has strength in its action beats. Reed Morano (The Handmaid's Tale) often shoots in intense close-ups, and it's extremely effective here, especially during a car chase in Tangiers, with its narrow roads and steep cliffs. This isn't quite John le Carré or James Bond (which shares a producer here), but it's almost there.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.