PG Score: 5.5/10
The Rhythm Section never quite finds its footing. While it shows flashes of quality filmmaking, it ultimately falls short of the mark. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Mark Burnell, who also wrote the screenplay. It follows Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) as she sets out to exact vengeance on those who coordinated a plane crash that killed her family. While the initial premise may differ from the run-of-the-mill revenge flick, it ultimately unfolds in an all too formulaic fashion. Director Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale) takes her time building up Stephanie’s backstory to a detrimental degree. While this is beneficial to her character development at first, it gradually drifts into the realm of tedium. TRS would’ve been better served getting into the action earlier. It spends too much time setting the scene for an insufficient payoff. The extensive first act, however, does bear some fruit.
This is one of Blake Lively’s better performances. She is tasked with a difficult character and, for the most part, nails it. Stephanie Patrick is a severely damaged individual whose pain surfaces in a multitude of ways. Lively manages to embrace the role of the traumatized vigilante with relative ease. She impressively conveys all of the emotions behind her loss and the deep-seated desire to balance the scales. If there were any remaining doubters of Blake’s range, The Rhythm Section should eliminate at least some of that noise. Her character’s mentor, B, is portrayed by a decent performance from Jude Law. The character isn’t all that deep, so it doesn’t give the talented actor much to work with. Sterling K. Brown does an adequate job as the mysterious Mark Serra, but again, he isn’t given ample opportunity to shine script-wise. Poor writing is really to blame for the bland supporting characters. When the action finally hits, it doesn’t land the blows necessary to make the build-up feel worth it. While the mediocre melees contain flashes of satisfaction, the combat sequences are subpar overall. For one, the choreography is pretty lackluster as the punches themselves feel pulled and the damage inflicted doesn’t carry enough weight. The fact that there is such an abundance of time dedicated to laying the groundwork for Stephanie’s revenge makes the weak impact of the violence that much more disappointing. The glimpses of good action it does display are further hindered by an incredibly shaky camera. It’s not only distracting, but at times it’s borderline nauseating. For a film that centers on revenge, the violence needed to be more impactful and better orchestrated.
The Rhythm Section suffers from some significant pacing issues. Aside from the slow and drawn out start, it also fails to maintain cruising altitude once it finally gets off the ground. Once the foundation has been established and the quest for vengeance has kicked into high gear, there’s no reason to let the foot off the gas. Unfortunately, Morano does just that. More than once, she pulls back hard on the reigns and dials down the momentum to a painful trot. On top of the haphazard pacing is the inconsistent writing. Some of it hits home and is layered with deeper meaning that resonates on an emotional level. A larger portion of it falls flat and is nonsensical. Many of the attempts at dark humor don’t work and some of the more serious verbal exchanges are eye-roll inducing. The Rhythm Section squanders a standout performance from the increasingly versatile Blake Lively. While it does tease a few hints of harmony, those fleeting moments are drowned out by an orchestra that never quite finds the tempo.