Contrary to the title, “The Rhythm Section” lacks a critical, steady beat.
A film directed by Reed Morano, “The Rhythm Section” tells the story of Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively), a young woman whose family was killed in a plane accident years prior. After settling into a life of addiction and depression, Stephanie learns the accident was actually a terrorist attack covered up by the government to avoid public fear. Now on a mission for revenge, Stephanie meets a former MI6 agent (Jude Law) who aids her as she embarks on a journey to find the killer.
The opening scene kicks off with high intensity. Blurry flashbacks are used as an attempt to show Stephanie’s difficulty coping with the death of her family, but the lack of context dulls the emotion and makes the scene more confusing than moving. For several minutes at the beginning, the constant back-and-forth panning between Stephanie and other characters is dizzying and might distract viewers from plot points that are central to the story later in the film.
As the plot progresses, some production decisions become questionable. There are several moments throughout the movie where the music used does not match the tone of the scene at all. Along with mismatched music, the editing is often choppy and abrupt, muddying the visual experience. Both do little to clarify an already complex narrative.
The writing of the movie is its biggest shortcoming. The concept is interesting, albeit unoriginal, but it is not successfully executed. Introducing side characters to Stephanie’s revenge plan renders the plot inconsistent and directionless. The story unfolds in such a confusing manner that the big plot twist and final climactic scenes feel incredibly underwhelming and leave viewers more puzzled than shocked.
Despite many production flaws, the film succeeds with its casting. Despite her inconsistent English accent, Lively is powerful and selling as Stephanie, completely engaged with the character through every triumph and defeat. Law makes a nice contrast alongside her. He initially gives a rather predictable portrayal of an MI6 agent, but brings to life a layered and imperfect man along the way.
While the narrative is not always clear, the story is satisfyingly honest. Despite being intensely trained by Law, Stephanie does not become a professional assassin overnight. The struggles Stephanie faces in her pursuit of revenge, ranging anywhere from losing a fight, controlling her rage or being unable to pull a trigger, make for a raw and realistic showcase of humanity, which is often absent in the action genre. Stephanie’s difficulties might frustrate viewers along the way, but “The Rhythm Section” is a refreshingly honest depiction of a damaged character’s growth and how loss affects them.
Overall, “The Rhythm Section” is yet another attempt at a Bond-esque action film. While it introduces more nuanced character elements than expected, it is bogged down by messy production and an unclear plot structure and ultimately fails as a film.