‘Rhythm Section’ Review: Sexless, Dull, and Self-Serious

Jose Haro/Eon Productions Limited

For just a moment there, The Rhythm Section looked promising. Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) is finally all cleaned up and looking something like Blake Lively, and she’s posing as a high-class hooker in a tight leather dress. At long last, I thought, this sullen death march of a movie is going to get a little sexy, a little entertaining, have some fun.


We don’t even get a good look at her.

Oh, we get a good look at her when she’s a pale, bruised junkie whore; when she looks like a fourteen year-old boy who hasn’t had a bath in a month or combed his hair ever, but now that she’s looking good, we get nothing.

Man, I miss T&A.

Honestly, if you’re going to make a movie with as silly of a premise as The Rhythm Section — which is basically a knock off of the French classic La Femme Nikita (1990) and its lesser but still entertaining American remake Point of No Return (1993),  mixed with a dash of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2009) and  a slice of The Amateur (1981) — you gotta deliver some payoff, embrace the silliness; you’re making a genre film here… That means explosions and cleavage, dammit.

What do we get instead…?

No joke, in look, feel, and tone, Rhythm Section reminded me of Leaving Las Vegas (1995). You remember that one. The one where Nicolas Cage decides to drink himself to death. The only difference is that Elisabeth Shue was allowed to be sexy.

Anyway, Rhythm Section opens with Stephanie Patrick making a disgusting living as a London-based junkie whore who charges, incredibly, 100 pounds per half hour, or a 150 pounds per hour, which is how long it would take to comb the snarls out of her hair.

Stephanie wasn’t always this way. Three years ago, she was a wholesome and promising Oxford student. It was only after her family was wiped out in a plane crash that junkie-whoredom beckoned.

Then she learns that plane crash was no plane crash. Nope, it was a terrorist attack. And this is where things get silly… She decides to kill the man who made the bomb. Unfortunately, she botches it, which tips the bomber off, who then goes into hiding.

And this is where things get even sillier… Our strung-out heroine tracks down former MI6 agent Iain Boyd (Jude Law), who just happens to live in one of those middle of nowhere spreads-slash-training camps that only exist in movies, and he agrees to transform the 89 pound tweaker with the runny nose into a world class, globe-trotting assassin.

And this is where things get confusing. Enter Sterling K. Brown, a former CIA operative who sells information. He has a thing for Stephanie (they have NO chemistry whatsoever), and hires her to assassinate some guy.

Blake Lively and Sterling K. Brown in The Rhythm Section (JOSE HARO/Eon Productions Limited, 2018) 

Little things also threw me. For instance, Stephanie is supposed to be brilliant with languages, which is how she got into Oxford. Nevertheless, when she’s impersonating a German assassin she doesn’t affect a German accent, which almost blows her cover. In fact, she travels the world without ever having to use her only real skill. No matter where she travels, everyone speaks English, even in New York.

But you know what…? I’m fine with all that. No one goes to the movies for reality. We do ask, however, to be entertained, and instead we’re hit with an oppressive, pretentious, sexless, grungy, self-serious tour of terrible-looking shooting locations and even worse looking wigs. A little humor would be nice, a little wit. Forget that, how about some suspense, or just one character with a little life in him?

The movie’s centerpiece is a car chase shot in a single take. I found it annoying. The camera whips around, bounces, shakes…

Now guess who produced this thing…

EON Productions, the same people who make the James Bond movies, which explains a lot, because the last four 007 entries have been all about self-serious brooding instead of our libertine license to kill enjoying  life as a superspy.

Everything was there to make The Rhythm Section something at least marginally close to entertaining: $50 million, a smoking-hot star, a tried-and-true boilerplate of a story… But you can sense everyone involved removing all the fun in order to avoid the woke tripwires.

Nothing can be sexy anymore; that’s objectification. If your protagonist is a prostitute, the subject of life as a “sex worker” must be treated academically. Men are bad, very bad, and ultimately unnecessary. Americans are the true villains behind Islamic terror.

The movie’s title comes from a breathing technique taught to her by Iain, which apparently is the secret to how a 89 pound woman who’s been poisoning herself for three years can kick a grown man’s ass.

“Your heart is the drums,” Iain tells her. “Your breathing the bass.”

What the hell does that even mean?

I hate to think what the tuba is.

Total waste of two hours.

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.


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