31 January 2020 | adodson-54671
Can't Find the Beat
In "The Rhythm Section", Blake Lively stars as Stephanie, a grief-stricken drug addict who discovers her family's tragic deaths were not what they seemed. She sets out to find answers and justice. It's an intriguing if familiar premise, but is it worth watching?
The film has a small cast but it's leading lady carries the load easily. Blake Lively continues her upward trajectory after strong turns in "The Shallows" (2016) and "A Simple Favor" (2018). She gives a wounded performance as Stephanie, a woman whose spirit died along with her family; a still-living victim of a tragedy. Everything from her gaze to how she carries herself screams brokenness. I also liked Jude Law as Boyd, an ex MI6 recluse. He's a hard-ass mentor figure for Stephanie as he attempts to give her skills to survive on her quest for revenge. He's like Obi-Wan Kenobi if Old Ben was a jerk. He provides a more harsh, stark view of the situation, reality-checking Stephanie again and again.
Another aspect of Stephanie I enjoyed was how inefficient she is as an assassin. After she completes her training and heads into the world to seek vengeance she proves to be rather ineffective. I thought she would finish training and immediately turn into a ruthless expert killer, but she proves to not be cut out for it. She lacks the moral numbness and skill to pull it off, which makes her more relatable. There's also a cool chase scene that's a continuous shot from within the vehicle. It's shot well and accompanied by a good score at times. I also appreciated the color pallet of the film, lots of muted, cold colors to reflect the bleak outlook of our protagonist.
The movie has a good first act, setting up an intriguing revenge tale that fizzles out in the second. We never get to know Stephanie, she isn't given character development. She has a goal that she desperately wants to fulfill but she doesn't change as a result of achieving that goal. She's the same character by the end as she was in the beginning, only she's sober now. When a revenge film like this lacks action and style it must make up for that with character and story, and it fails on both counts. Altogether, it feels like connecting dots that never create a cohesive image.
The talented Sterling K Brown is dragged into this to give information and wear glasses. He never feels like a character, he's more of a plot device. The score is good in a few scenes, but the soundtrack is off. Thirty seconds of a Velvet Underground song here and a Brenda Lee song there for fifteen seconds. It's like hitting shuffle on a varied playlist at random times. I also wish the filmmaker leaned less on flashbacks. They could have relied on the leading lady to convey the loss she feels rather than reusing the same flashback scene over and over. The script lacks emotional depth and consists mostly of exposition being traded between characters.
I don't recommend seeing "The Rhythm Section". While it has a strong lead performance, the character and her story are never fleshed out, creating a rather empty experience. The film does offer a unique take on the femme fatale genre, but that's not enough to hold it up. The film is overlong and rather dull. Despite an intriguing start it never goes anywhere, and there's not much fun along the way to make up for it's lacking. It unravels into near-incoherence by the end, at which point you won't really care. You'll just wish you saw "1917" again. I wouldn't worry about seeing this one, even on Netflix.