The Rhythm Section (2020)

There’s one car chase in The Rhythm Section that almost makes the whole experience worthwhile. It sees the camera anchored firmly in the passenger seat of the lead car, and then sees it whirl around to shoot behind the car, the driver, and then in front of the car, all in an “unbroken” (there are, without doubt, cuts when the camera spins around, but you can’t tell) take. It’s a creative way to do a car chase, which are often so mundane as to not even be noteworthy.

There’s another scene later on which features hand-to-hand combat in a cramped kitchen. This, unlike what we have to assume about the car chase, is a single-take scene. It, too, is fantastic to watch. It’s playful but with a hint of danger, and the choreography is great. It’s these two scenes that make the film has a lot more potential than what we got. Why is there so much creativity and talent shown in only these brief instances, while the rest is rather boring? The screenplay is the biggest problem, bringing us a story we’ve seen before dressed up in obfuscation and confusion in an attempt to distract us from that.

The plot here is that Stephanie (Blake Lively) had her entire family die in a plane crash a few years ago, and has since taken to heroin and prostitution, as any top Oxford student would do if they suffered loss. She’s approached by an exposition journalist (Raza Jaffrey) who informs her it wasn’t an accident, there was a bomb, and certain people are involved. He dies once he’s outlived his useful information dumping. She then travels to meet his contact, exposition former-MI6 man (Jude Law) who reluctantly trains her to be an assassin and then provides her with all of the information required to kill her targets, the people who made the plane crash a possibility.

Sterling K. Brown also shows up as an exposition dump, but since he’s playing a career informant, that’s to be expected. The rest of the film follows Stephanie as she tries to pull off these murders. “Tries” is a pivotal word here. Outside of those two scenes, the smartest thing that The Rhythm Section does is make Stephanie an incompetent assassin. She’s trained for months, sure, and has some of the technical aspects down (she can shoot a gun, do basic combat, and run), but she’s an ordinary person. The mindset isn’t there and the movie showcases that. Her failures to be a proper killer against anyone even remotely aware they might be a target help this film stand out against its contemporaries.

Most of what I’ve said that isn’t about the story has been positive. It’s a shame that the story is convoluted and been-there-done-that to the point that it’s almost impossible to care. So much of it feels convenient—with its expository characters, especially—and unimportant as a result. There’s no struggle in learning any information of consequence. Stephanie’s story should feel a lot more personal than it does. Lively is fine in the lead role but the plot does not do her any favors.

The Rhythm Section is a film with wasted potential. It has some strong filmmaking and a couple of good decisions along the way, but most of it is a jumbled mess filled with more exposition than a movie can properly contain and still succeed. It has a committed lead performance, two great scenes, and finally a “normal person” assassin who isn’t instantly the best at the job. It’s a mixed bag that’ll likely leave you frustrated based on the lost opportunity on display.

Conclusion: The Rhythm Section misses too many marks to be considered a good movie.

Recommendation: The Rhythm Section isn’t really worth your time but there are enough strong aspects to allow you to see the potential it had.

  • 5/10
    Rating - 5/10

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