The “cool factor” that is rather catchy in director Reed Morano’s stiffened spy thriller are a couple of things: the film’s chic-sounding title and the actioner’s leading lady’s name. Indeed, The Rhythm Section and its star Blake Lively possess a distinctive ring to their distinctive monikers. It is too bad that the lyrical labels for both the film project and its lead actress cannot add any notable spark to this drawn-out action drama in search of its staged contemplative mojo. Sadly, The Rhythm Section sings an all-too-familiar tune in terms of its labored “harried heroine seeking revenge mode”.
It does not help that Morano’s by-the-numbers direction and screenwriter Mark Burnell’s disjointed script concocts a convoluted caper that meanders and never manages to string together this strained suspense yarn that peters on aimlessly without any imaginative conviction. The Rhythm Section yearns to be authentically moody and spellbinding. Lively’s gun-toting protagonist demonstrates an adequate sense of angst and anguish. Nevertheless, the rhythmic notes seem off-balance in this plodding redemption romp that skips an uneven beat.
Lively stars as Stephanie Patrick, the soon-to-be Brit badass babe out for vengeance when she discovers that her late family horribly perished in a terrorist bombing airplane plot. Understandably raw, rebellious and ravenous, the disillusioned Stephanie demands answers regarding the deadly demise of her beloved relatives not to mention the 259 other victimized passengers that were blasted to death. Determined and focused, Stephanie will exact her revenge in the name of her jeopardized loved ones’ memory.
Thus, Stephanie’s piercing radar is squarely on the corruptible culprits as she hunts them down dutifully. Her tortured journey into evening the score for eradicating the calculating riff raff eventually leads her to the attention of the sinister operative Iain Boyd (Jude Law). Boyd’s mission is to convert the unsteady Stephanie into a crafty assassin. Unfortunately, Boyd’s high expectations for turning Stephanie into a competent killing machine is asking too much at the moment.
Clearly, the notorious baddies need to be apprehended so Boyd must whip the shaky novice into shape. The obligatory sequences are soon presented where the cliqued training techniques are applied. Watch Stephanie undergo endurance rituals to train her toned body. Watch Stephanie cozy up to firearms to strengthen her shooting skills. Think of Stephanie Patrick as the Eliza Doolittle of chick flick super spies with a macabre makeover to Iain Boyd’s Professor Henry Higgins instructions in My Fair Lethal Lady. Whatever.
The so-called transformation of Lively’s Stephanie Patrick is not only hard to swallow as she gradually switches to a cold stone-killing cupcake but the motivation for the druggie prostitute-turned-professional hitwoman feels quite unconvincing. Certainly Stephanie is no La Femme Nikita by any stretch of the imagination. Lively is unrecognizable and she does have a unique roughness to her bewildering look. The middling material, however, fails to support Lively’s downtrotting diva adequately. Morano pours on the heavy-handed action-packed scenes but the haywire plotting is woefully clunky and overreaching. No doubt Lively is looking to parlay this ragged “Jane Bond” into an anti-heroic happening. Sadly, The Rhythm Section just does not have the lucid legs to dance to the mysterious music it wants to play so intriguingly.
The supporting roles are questionable at best. Law’s Boyd serves no other purpose than to babysit Lively’s theatrics as a wounded pick-off artist with an eager trigger. The great Emmy-winning Sterling K. Brown (“Waves”) from TV’s This Is Us is inexplicably wasted in a trivial role as an ex-CIA agent constantly reminding the haunted Stephanie about her doomed family’s outcome. Overall, sour notes are assembled in the cluttered The Rhythm Section from Lively’s hammy British accent to the peppered proceedings that linger in this callow caper of alienated feminine fury.
The Rhythm Section
DIRECTOR: Reed Morano
STARRING: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, Richard Brake, Daniel Mays
RUN TIME: 109 minutes