The Rhythm Section review: from the producers of James Bond

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The excellent Blake Lively headlines The Rhythm Section, a new thriller with a few problems.

Blake Lively is perhaps an underseen actor. She has an amazing ability to slide through genres giving a stunning performance in varied films such as the brilliantly wicked dark comedy A Simple Favour, exquisite drama Age of Adeline, and sea-faring horror The Shallows.

Now she is tackling a wayward assassin (and a British accent) in Reed Morano’s The Rhythm Section.

Produced by Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, popular for a little spy franchise named Bond, The Rhythm Section revolves around Stephanie Patrick, a young woman whose life was derailed when her entire family were killed in a plane crash. Approached by a journalist, she discovers that the crash was not accidental. Soon she is embroiled in a mission to hunt down and assassinate those responsible. But will she get the answers she deserves?

The Rhythm Section is a gorgeously shot and brilliantly acted disappointment. Blake Lively is a great actor, producing a brilliantly accurate British accent as Stephanie that you’ll forget she is really Canadian. Lively is a terrific on-screen presence, bringing to life an arguably one-note character with empathy. Despite the scenes becoming over-bearing throughout the film, Lively portrays the lead character’s grief in a gripping way that you’d somewhat believe that her sad-sap antics would eventually lead to being a, albeit clumsy, assassin. It’s Lively that really keeps the pieces of the film together.

Sadly, the film lacks the grip and impact to be an engaging thriller. The movie spends quite a lot of time setting up Stephanie’s emotional map which is exhaustingly one-note. Stephanie, who lost her entire family, has spent the past three years a destitute drug-using prostitute. The sudden flip to cutthroat assassin doesn’t feel accomplished enough. She spends a few scenes running in the woods with Jude Law’s MI6 fugitive character and suddenly this user can kill a man. With all this time seeing her moping, flashbacks of happier times, there could’ve been a proper delve into her make-up and journey as a killer for hire.  Not only this but the background characters are so thin that by the time the villain reveal appears, there is no gut-punch reaction.

The cinematography by Sean Bobbitt, best known for his work with Steve McQueen and Dominic Cooke, means the film is beautiful with the deep reds and greens of Scotland contrasting with sun-soaked Madrid or the miserably grey of London. Each location has a distinct palette. It’s beautiful to watch. Also the music doesn’t always work with the action. The score is great when it is freed but then is archetypal with pipes for Scotland or drums for Tangier. All this is moot when a garish song choice is played. The Beatles’ is loudly played over a car chase but dropped stupidly quick.

For all it’s potential, sadly, The Rhythm Section is several drum beats out of tempo.

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