For the last four months, action thriller The Rhythm Section’s trailer has screened before nearly every film. Now, this month’s revenge story has finally arrived. Based upon the novel of the same name, The Rhythm Section stars Blake Lively, Jude Law, and Sterling K. Brown. In it, it tells the story of a former Oxford student who’s now a prostitute. This status quo of Lively’s character followed the loss of her entire family in a plane crash; a crash that was anything but an accident.
Watch It: If you want a thriller that’s gritty and with great performances, great music and a simple story.
Skip It: If you want a thriller that’s low on graphic violence, as well as a story that’s complex and multi-dimensional.
Early reviews of The Rhythm Section have not been all too kind. On the popular review-aggregation site, Rotten Tomatoes, only 30% of critics find it worth one’s time, as of this writing. The average score by those same critics currently stands at a 4.7 out of 10. Early marks from cinephiles that rush first to the big screen may not be glowing. But they’ve also fared somewhat better than the professionals. And for good reason.
In the lead role, Blake Lively gives a great performance, as her character must don many hats. She plays a damaged and bitter prostitute in the first act. From there, she chooses revenge, which includes various wigs and various personalities. It also includes many physical challenges, as Lively herself suffered injuries on set, which delayed production. In the end, she’s front and center and handles her role quite skillfully. It must also be said that supporting actors Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown, with their skill level, deliver believable characters.
Interestingly, and on a more technical side, Hans Zimmer supervised the music as the executive score producer. Composed by Steve Mazzaro, the score is anything but subtle. Many times, the influence of Zimmer’s penchant for minimalism pulsates through, and it works powerfully. It’s Iain Boyd (Law) who coaches Stephanie Patrick (Lively) after all: “Think of your heart as the drums, your breathing as the bass.”
To go with an exhilarating score is some great direction by female director Reed Morano. As an established cinematographer on other projects, Morano and Sean Bobbitt offer angles that are very much from Lively’s point of view. In a big plot point that involves a car chase, they managed to offer that same point of view. The sequence is gripping and never feels messy or incoherent.
While there’s much to be said of the film’s success, the writing itself keeps The Rhythm Section from being an all-around great film. Mark Burnell wrote the novel of the same name, but also has written the screenplay. Novels still serve as eye-catching bait for producers. “If it’s a successful novel, of course it can be a successful film.” And while Burnell appears to clearly understand the differences between writing a book and writing a script, the film still plays all too one-dimensional.
The script follows a balanced structure. In contrast to some early reviews, Burnell has systematically placed his story into a screenplay format that works and never drags. The flip side to this is that, in staying faithful to his own story, Burnell had an uphill climb with the film medium itself. The film falls flat at times, even if still thrilling. It’s as if it lacked the complexity, nuance, and many dimensions that perhaps his novel contain.
The Rhythm Section gets a recommendation as a safe, thrilling, and at times predictable story. With great performances, music, cinematography, and simplicity, it succeeds as an enjoyable piece to catch, whether you’re watching mid-flight or on the small screen in the future. It may play and appear as somewhat one-noted, but Lively’s performance and a consistent tempo make The Rhythm Section worth it.
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