“The Rhythm Section” Sounds out the Movie Version of an Airport Thriller

“The Rhythm Section” Sounds out the Movie Version of an Airport Thriller February 1, 2020

Airport life hack:  finding the right book is key for crankiness prevention.  That book can’t demand intense concentration (gotta keep one ear open for boarding announcements), but it needs a sufficiently propulsive plot to keep the pages turning.  Three-dimensional characters or lasting insights?  Not so much.

The Rhythm Section, new to cinemas this weekend, is the movie equivalent of the airport novel.  Sure, it kept me entertained, but I’m starting to forget it already.

Blake Lively gives it her best effort here, as Oxford student turned hooker turned assassin-for-hire Stephanie Patrick, but this will likely not be the movie breakout role for TV’s former Gossip Girl star.  Jude Law, on the other hand, phones it in as the blasé ex-MI6 agent who trains Patrick.

Blake Lively is Stephanie Patrick, in “The Rhythm Section”

Patrick has taken a three-year nosedive following the deaths of her parents and siblings in a plane crash over the Atlantic.  (A series of sun-drenched, happy flashbacks show us smiling days of yore, but add no depth to Patrick’s character or any personality to the deceased.)  Then, a journalistic loner – he’s got the crazy wall of photos and newspaper clippings to prove it – breaks up a night of turning tricks for Patrick, telling her that he’s got evidence the crash wasn’t an accident but rather a terrorist attack, covered up by western governments.

The journalist, having advanced the plot ahead a step, predictably meets a violent end.  So Patrick journeys from London to the wilds of Scotland, to receive confirmation and training from Jude Law’s character, “B.”  She boots her drug habit, gets fit, and learns to kick ass.

What follows, in the style of James Bond, is a series of globe hops to face various baddies and allies until the final showdown.  Not surprisingly, Barbara Broccoli, longtime Bond film producer, has a similar role in The Rhythm Section.

Director Reed Morano does give each location (Tangier, Madrid, Marseille, among others) a gritty, lived-in feel.  But the fight sequences vary in quality.  An early one feels like it could’ve been pulled from a first-person shooter.  Later on, they improve, with an intimate focus and sense of high stakes usually missing when Daniel Craig is in the ring.

But a romantic entanglement in one locale lacks even the chemistry of a coital coupling with the latest Bond girl.  And a stab at political correctness, situating a scuffle with a bomb-maker named Ahmed in the midst of a “Muslims aren’t terrorists” protest rally, is stunningly tone-deaf.

For a film with a music analogy for a title (your heartbeat is the drums, your breath is the bass, how clever), the soundtrack even flubs it at a climactic point.  As Patrick stands battered yet triumphant over a corpse, the orchestra swells to spacious, major key music of release.  Eww!


(Image credit for star rating: Yasir72.multan CC BY-SA 3.0 )

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