The Rhythm Section — a film review by Gary Chew
The first movie I saw Blake Lively in was The Town. She played a supporting part that had her as the main squeeze of a bank robber on the lam. Ben Affleck is the villain and he directed the film In a bar scene with Ben, the close ups of Lively’s face took my breath away. She is a beautiful woman. Her character in this 2010 film had lots of troubles, all plainly displayed on a face I couldn’t stop looking at.
Lively’s issues as Stephanie Patrick in The Rhythm Section — her latest film — are exponentially magnified with help from Reed Morano, the director… and Mark Burnell, who adapted the screenplay from a novel he wrote using the same title.
As The Rhythm Section is largely at-sea, it will come as no surprise to learn it has nothing to do with a band of musicians, or sections thereof. The waves of this film try to wash onto a shore that you might want to give title to as “Beach 007,” but Sean Connery and Ursula Andress didn’t get a call back.
We get to know Stephanie a bit in the ebullience of a loving family. I thought Morano would never move past her need to establish familial glee in order to get to the darkness and violence that are most often the product of someone hellbent on revenge. All of Steph’s family dies in a mid-sea passenger jet crash that she, at the last minute, opted out of. Talk about guilty.
The film opens after the tragedy with her having disintegrated into heavy drug and alcohol use to numb the pain of now being a disheveled whore. Her previous status in life as a smart, multilingual teacher is hardly called to attention. You have wait for it, so to speak, as you see Stephanie’s repetitious, rapturous connections with her mom, dad, sisters and brother.
A furtive independent journalist comes to the bordello where Steph works to inform her that research — after a few years having passed since the crash — tells him: no accident — it was a bomb planted by some freaking terrorists; and as well, he’s been in contact with anonymous others for that revelation.
Stephanie commences with chickening out on killing a guy she’s learned was in on the bombing-the-plane caper. That leads our heroine onto a hermit-like ex-spy — really ensconced in the boondocks. This character goes unnamed on the cast list, but he is performed by the redoubtable Jude Law.
No Name Jude teaches Steph how to really kick ass. Yeah, does he ever: by kicking hers really well. The transformation of Stephanie into a robust, hard-ass female assassin can’t be too far in our future, right? Well, sort of. But years have shown having a license to kill, even with its lousy hours, can be an awesome-cool skill set to have.
Various under-explained threads are woven into the script implying there’s lots more in the book. So, whether you like it or not, you’re fundamentally here to see this film for observing Blake Lively suffer as woman with several names and ways of dressing, as well as wig wearings, while she sinks into a mayhem-filled swamp that’s not located in the District of Columbia
I said The Rhythm Section isn’t an on-the-beach spy movie dealing with a suspicious band of rhythm keepers. Curiously, it doesn’t present itself as really knowing what to be, except for the “fruits” of getting revenge and finding one’s self — following a racking familial disaster. How could it be when, just before the next rumble, chase, or shootout ensues, the soundtrack bewilders us further with Mama Cass Elliot warbling “Dream A Little Dream of Me,” or Brenda Lee belting out “I’m Sorry” or Elvis crooning “It’s Now Or Never”? Bewilderment can bring laughter.
It is my fear that the so watchable Blake Lively has found her lovely self, ugh… a franchise.