Tuesday, 11 February 2020

Review: The Rhythm Section

The Rhythm Section
Cert: 15 / 109 mins / Dir. Reed Morano / Trailer

From time to time, dear reader, even I of all people look at the headlining cast of an otherwise nondescript movie and think 'well this must have something going for it if [INSERT NAME OF PROMINENT PERFORMER] is in it'. And from time to time, I shuffle out of the cinema shortly afterward thinking '...yeah that was just to keep the mortgage ticking over between bigger films, wasn't it?

And so to London (and New York, Madrid, Marseilles and a whole host of easily captionable locations) as Blake Lively plays Stephanie, a woman embroiled in addiction and squalor, struggling to come to terms with her family being killed in a plane crash three years earlier. When she's visited by journalist Proctor (Raza Jaffrey) revealing that the crash was actually a terrorist bombing that was subsequently covered up by the authorities, the chain of intrigue leads to the glens of Inverness where Stephanie finds herself training to be an assassin under the enigmatic but harsh 'B' (Jude Law). The hopes are that revenge and closure will be in the same package, as Stephanie embarks on a world tour of 'cleaning house'...


John Wick, it is not. Adapted for the screen by Mark Burnell from his novel of the same name, The Rhythm Section is a muted take on the contemporary spy-thriller. At first the setup and exposition feels efficient if unambitious, but the visual and scripted shorthand continues into the main narrative and comes off as a bit overcooked. On one hand, there's the feeling that this story might have just worked better on the page. But on the other, there are even more interchangably-glum novels like this than there are movies, so who knows where the quality-bar really falls?

Blake Lively does quite well from it all*1, although with a storyline as procedural as this it often feels like she's over-acting. Speaking of such matters, I dread to think how much weight Jude Law gained over the shoot, what with the amount of scenery he chews through. Everyone else turns up and says their lines on time, including a criminally under-used Sterling K. Brown. This isn't particularly inspired casting, but then it's not a particularly inspired story.


The film always feels like it's about to get started. There are a few long-take action sequences which are interesting from a film-making point of view, but Atomic Blonde had those and was also fun. This isn't bad, it just isn't memorable. With Bond-meisters Eon Productions' name attached, you may well expect better, but ultimately, putting The Rhythm Section out two months before their own No Time To Die seems like a colossal waste of resources.

Best line comes from Jude Law's 'B' during the training section:
"It's not a tragedy, it's a cliché. You're a cliché, you haven't got what it takes."

Bit on-the-nose mate, but since you mention it...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
American Assassin and Red Sparrow, two equally troubled productions. On the plus-side, it's not The Snowman...

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
Probably not, to be fair.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
Classic streamer.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It is not.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
That's likely.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There isn't.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 1: Tivik and 2nd Lt. Frobb are in this.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Although on a minor note, Lively's accent can never quite decide if if wants to hail from South London or the Home Counties. I mean I've certainly heard a lot worse from other performers (not least Law himself), but you know that I wouldn't be able to not bring this up. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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