The Rhythm Section, directed by Reed Morano, was sadly off beat. “Stephanie Patrick” (Blake Lively) loses her mother, father, brother, and sister all at once in a terrible plane crash. When a reporter, “Proctor” (Raza Jaffrey) tells her that the “crash” was actually a planned terrorist attack, Stephanie decides to get revenge by any means necessary. (CPG 1/5)
Review by Carlotta Plys-Garzotto
The Rhythm Section has a lot going on. From the weird choice in title (even though the reason for it is repeated many times throughout the movie, that still doesn’t make it sound good!) to the nonsensical plot and jarring music, this movie is straight up wacky.
The biggest issue with the film is that a lot of things just simply do not make sense. For instance, Stephanie comes from a middle class family and is a student with a bright future. Three years after the death of her entire immediate family, she is a drug addicted prostitute. It was a little hard to believe that Stephanie had zero extended family or friends (or life insurance $?) to help her get through that horrible time. Instead, she has disappeared into this dark life alone (but still has an iPhone?).
The audience isn’t quite able to fall in love with Stephanie as the hero of the movie for a number of reasons. One, there is very little dialogue in this film. Sometimes less is more, but the silence was not used to effectively deepend the story. Most of the movie is shots of Blake Lively walking around in various cities, or repeats of the same flashback again and again of a family game night. Two, Stephanie ends up with a lot of blood on her hands, and many of the lives she takes are innocent. This goes against the only thing we know about her, which is that she thinks it is wrong that her family was killed as innocent bystanders on a plane that also happened to have the terrorist’s target on it. So, she’s just doing the same thing they did to her to other people.
The acting in the film is the most redeeming quality, and does make up for some of the lacking dialogue and confusing plot points. Blake Lively really portrays the wounded, hardened, badass woman effectively. She is cold outwardly, but you can see her deep pain. She meets “B” (Jude Law), who trains to be a fighter, and Lively’s in-pain performances are noteworthy.
Time jumps sporadically in this film, sometimes with warning and sometimes without. While this could be an element that adds depth, it really only adds confusion and takes away any mystery or building tension. More than jumping, a scene where absolutely nothing is happening will stretch on for minutes, and then an interesting scene will be chopped up or cut off.
There are a lot of characters introduced briefly, and many times you will be asking yourself, “wait, who…?”. Especially at the climax of the film, when there is a major plot twist, you mostly will be saying, “but..what?” instead of “wow!”.
While Moreno’s style was different and has great potential, everything just did not come together in The Rhythm Section. Something was slightly off. It was the slowest moving action movie I’ve ever seen, with the least rewarding ending. The great acting performances do make the movie entertaining, and there is some cool camera work and beautiful scenery. However, these don’t makeup for the over all confusion of the movie.
Does The Rhythm Section pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Commentary by Review Coach Giorgi Plys-Garzotto
There’s this Jerry Seinfeld bit where he talks about how he can’t follow the plot of movies. Mimicking leaning over in a movie theater to whisper to a friend, he says, “Who is that? Oh, I thought he was with them? But then why did they kill him? Oh, he wasn’t really with them?” A lot of The Rhythm Section was like that. Why is Blake Lively in this city? Why does she have that accent? Why does her accent seem to be slipping in a lot of scenes?
A lot of the dialogue was also too contrived and fake dramatic to really affect me. There’s a part where Jude Law asks Blake Lively if she has a better idea than his plan, and she goes “I don’t have a worse one,” and you can tell it’s supposed to be ~snappy~ but it really isn’t, which just makes it sad.
One thing I will give The Rhythm Section is the car chase scene in the first ~hour of the movie where POV shots are used to make the audience feel like they’re in the passenger seat as Blake Lively flees wildly through a Middle Eastern city from people shooting at her. The whip-pans from Blake Lively screaming “fuck” to the people chasing her to the car she’s about to run into is a really anxiety-inducing way to bring the audience into the story.