The Rhythm Section – Film Review
by P Viale
Director: Reed Morano
Writers: Mark Burnell (screenplay by), Mark Burnell
Stars: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown
In an early scene of Reed Moreno’s “The Rhythm Section” we watch a home movie that the main protagonist, Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively), shot of her family. In a quasi idyllic sequence we see her mother, busy in the kitchen, helped along by her smiling father and two siblings, and ending with the whole family beaming into the camera in a scene reminiscent of a TV ad for Brennan’s Bread. The familial harmony and upbeat mood contrasts sharply with the following shot where, three years later, we meet a dishevelled, bruised Stephanie in a sordid room, living by prostitution to pay for her drug habit and obviously on a path to self-destruction.
We learn that her family have all been killed in a plane crash and that Stephanie is wracked with guilt as they had changed their travel plans to fit in with her schedule. A visit from a journalist who tells her that the crash was in fact a terrorist attack and that the bomb maker is living nearby, shocks Stephanie out of the apathy that has dogged her since the death of her family and sets her on a quest for revenge. From here the tone and pace of the film changes and we move into full Jason Bourne/Mission Impossible/Jack Reacher assassin movie mode.
Based on the novel of the same name by Mark Burnell (he has written three more in the Stephanie Patrick series so we can expect a sequel!) the central character and the storyline seem to share a lot in common with Luc Besson’s groundbreaking 1990 movie “La Femme Nikita”. In both the drug-addicted heroine is dragged back from the abyss and forced, through a baptism of fire, to become a killing machine, proficient and without pity. The memorable sequences in Nikita where she is trained by Tchéky Karyo and the wonderful Jeanne Moreau in the art not only of killing but also of being able to fit into any strata of society, are missing in Moreno’s movie. Here we make do with Jude Law as the disgraced MI5 agent who teaches Stephanie the skills needed to survive on the path she has chosen.
Many of the early sequences were shot in Dublin and it is interesting trying to spot familiar landmarks. As a young woman struggling with her demons, Lively gives a nuanced performance in the first half of the film but as she moves into her role of assassin and travels from North Africa to Spain to New York in pursuit of her victims, the film takes on a more generic feel with a compulsory car chase and a mounting list of bodies. We might have expected something less obvious from Moreno who directed some of the more compelling episodes of “The Handmaid’s Tale” recently.
“The Rhythm Section” may not be groundbreaking or very original, but it is an enjoyable thriller, with multiple twists and turns, and will certainly appeal if you want an undemanding evening out and (very topically) a female, kick-ass, central character wreaking her revenge on a world of men.