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‘The Rhythm Section’ is out of sync

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There’s something deeply satisfying about a good revenge thriller. There’s a visceral enjoyment that comes from watching a wronged person exact vengeance upon those who wronged them. Sure, it can be a little formulaic, but if the formula is executed well, it doesn’t matter – it’s brutal, bloody fun.

But if it is executed poorly, well … that’s a whole different story.

Poor execution is just one of the many problems with “The Rhythm Section,” directed by Reed Morano from a screenplay by Mark Burnell (adapted from his own novel of the same name). It is meandering and convoluted, with a thin narrative that strains the credulity of even the most forgiving audience member. There are some talented performers here – and they even seem to give a s—t – but that’s not enough to salvage a film that is utterly familiar and ultimately forgettable.

Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively, “A Simple Favor”) has hit rock bottom. Her entire life fell apart three years ago when her entire family died in a plane crash; she dropped out of school, developed a drug habit and turned to prostitution to survive.

It’s in a brothel where she’s discovered by Keith Proctor (Raza Jaffrey, TV’s “Lost in Space”), a freelance journalist who has been investigating the crash; he has sought her out in hopes of sharing his insights – namely, that the crash was not an accident, but the result of a targeted bombing by terrorists.

Stephanie is initially skeptical, but curiosity soon wins out. She makes contact with Proctor and meets with him at his apartment, where she sees firsthand the wealth of evidence that he has uncovered – much of it with the assistance of a mysterious informant he knows only as “B.”

Her security is short-lived, however; when she tries to take it on herself to eliminate the man who built the bomb, she inadvertently alerts some unpleasant characters to Proctor’s work and she is forced to flee. With no other options, she tries to seek out B.

When she makes her way to the isolated lakeside cottage that serves as B’s headquarters, she is confronted by B (Jude Law, TV’s “The New Pope”). With nothing left to lose, she demands that he teach her what she needs to know in order to exact revenge on those responsible for her family’s demise. Reluctantly, he does so, helping her detox from drugs and building her endurance before teaching her how to shoot and fight and other stuff (in a remarkably short time, it should be noted).

From there, Stephanie is tasked with gaining close access to Mark Serra (Sterling K. Brown, “Waves”), a former CIA agent who has become an illicit information broker operating out of Madrid. For reasons too convoluted to get into here, she also must take contracts as an assassin – a job that she proves to be not-great at to start.

Slowly, Stephanie stumbles her way through the tangled web of intrigue surrounding the bombing and grows ever closer to uncovering the truth about what really happened to her family … and making those responsible pay for their crimes.

I mean … I guess?

There’s a lot that doesn’t work about “The Rhythm Section,” but perhaps its biggest sin is that it lacks, well … rhythm. The pacing shudders and stutters, as does the narrative timeline – we’re never really sure how much time is passing at various points. Sometimes, things move very quickly, others unfold at a snail’s pace, and there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of rhyme or reason regarding which moments are which. The whole thing just lacks consistency, which makes it difficult to engage or empathize with what’s happening.

Some of that could be forgiven if the proceedings were interesting to look at, but Morano and company struggle to manage even that, despite some significant gifts with regards to locations. And the unexpectedly few action moments largely fail to land (although there’s one fight scene that proves fairly interesting and offers one of the scant surprises in the film). The overall impression is of a film that is as disengaged aesthetically as it is narratively.

I should be clear – this is not Blake Lively’s fault. She actually gives a decent performance despite the many obstacles placed in front of her. Granted, she’s occasionally a bit much in her choices – particularly early on – but overall, it’s a much better performance than this film probably deserves. Still, she can’t quite manage to turn this particular beat around. Law is fine, although the biggest impression he makes is as of someone who was only on-set for three days; it’s not bad, just kind of disinterested. Brown is better – he’s the sort of actor who seems fundamentally incapable of mailing it in – but he’s not given a ton to work with. His quieter scenes with Lively are some of the best in the movie, for whatever that’s worth. The rest of the ensemble is quietly competent and more or less forgettable, save perhaps for a brief appearance by Vinnie Delpino himself, Max Casella.

“The Rhythm Section” feels like it could have been something interesting. Instead, it wastes a pretty good Blake Lively on a generic replacement-level thriller that can’t get out of its own narrative way. Rest assured, the rhythm is NOT gonna get you.

[1.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Thursday, 06 February 2020 14:19

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