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November 25, 2020   |   Ithaca, NY

Life & Culture

Review: Discordant narrative fails to maintain a steady beat

The Rhythm Section

Eon Productions

Predictable, disorganized and monotonous are just a few words to describe “The Rhythm Section,” a fast-paced action drama directed by Reed Morano. The entirety of the film’s strengths can be summed up in two words: Blake Lively.

Mark Burnell is the author of the novel that the movie is based on as well as the screenwriter for the film. Burnell crafted a story that lacks plot, secondary character development or any sort of structure. “The Rhythm Section” misses out on crucial storytelling techniques. As a result, it has secured itself a place on a list of dead-on-arrival films that are not worth a second watch.

When her family is killed by a bomb onboard an airplane, Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) resorts to a life of prostitution and drug addiction. Corrupted by the repercussions of terrorism, Stephanie is haunted by the knowledge that she was supposed to be on the plane too. She then embarks on her hero’s journey: She must get clean, find the killer and avenge her family.

The film establishes that Stephanie was a language student at Oxford University. Therefore this film is classified as an international action flick, yet ironically it jumps from locations such as France to Morocco without once encountering a character who speaks anything besides English. This adds to the extensive list of easytofix, yet unaddressed weaknesses in the project.

Just when she needs him most, Stephanie meets Iain Boyd, or B (Jude Law), a reticent ex-secret service member who becomes her mentor. B forces Stephanie to run, swim and effectively kick a man in the groin. Despite some high-energy action scenes between the two, their relationship lacks development and is rather mundane. Indeed, Stephanie discovers that B’s primary task was to stop the plane from crashing, which he failed to do. With this newfound distrust, Stephanie takes her extensive self-defense techniques and follows her own path toward vengeance. 

The predictability of this film allows audiences to see that as soon as Stephanie went her own way, falling into a trap was inevitable. There is absolutely no context given that the character Marc Serra (Sterling K. Brown) is a villain until the film’s final minutes. His forthcoming deception is made enigmatic by his distinct lack of villainous nature. Brown brings little to the character, and this lack in development immediately establishes him as one of the driest villains in modern cinema. 

Though this film’s strengths are few and far between, Lively’s ability to channel a character so unlike any of her prior roles makes for a performance worthy of acknowledgment. Predominantly recognized for her role in “Gossip Girl,” Lively shows with this film that she is more than capable of playing a vast array of identities. This role re-establishes her as a worthy contender in the acting community.

Despite a captivating viewing experience and a female lead who is easy to root for, “The Rhythm Section” misses out on one too many beats to leave any sort of lasting impression on the viewer.