Reed Morano is someone I admire quite a bit for a lot of reasons. As someone who was born in Omaha, she is technically a Midwesterner. I also have an appreciation for (most) cinematographers who move into the director’s chair. If you can make a film look good off another person’s instructions why not cut out the middle man and do it yourself? Finally, I really enjoyed her criminally underrated I Think We’re Alone Now from 2018. All of this was enough to get me stoked for The Rhythm Section. Throw in Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, two seasoned producers with a history in the action/espionage genre I thought something special might be on the horizon.
Based on Mark Burnell’s book of the same name we meet Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively), a bright young woman whose life falls apart following the death of her family in a plane crash. Living as a strung-out prostitute in London Stephanie is contacted by Keith (Raza Jaffrey) who reveals the crash was not an accident but instead bombed by a terrorist. Armed with this information Stephanie seeks to avenge her family with some training from former MI-6 operative Iian (Jude Law) and information broker Marc’s (Sterling K. Brown) intel. I’m a sucker for vengeance stories in films. They’re typically relatable and show us the depths a human can sink to in order to fill a void in their soul. It’s a shame that this could’ve been a solid film, but The Rhythm Section gets bogged down by some issues.
“I’ve got nothing to lose.”
There are two major positives that I would like to highlight. First, let’s talk about the look of the film. Morano’s background in cinematography gives the film a great aesthetic. I’m sure she has been frustrated with how what she has shot for other directors got hacked up in the editing bay. One of my biggest problems with recent action films is how you can never tell where people are relation to each other during action scenes. Here everything looks great and feels coherent. Her command of the frame is a welcome addition to this great series of post-shaky cam action films.
Blake Lively is one of those actresses whose transition from TV to film hasn’t been stellar. I never watched Gossip Girl, so my knowledge of her has been through the handful of films I’ve caught. As none of them have been leading roles I always kind of overlooked her. Here I will admit to being impressed. I actually could relate to Stephanie’s pain and found the character’s evolution believable. We follow her from her lowest point and watch as she digs her way out while struggling with moral quandaries. She sells all of this and does a great job at it.
“He believes in profit… not *The Prophet*”
Jude Law is someone I’ve been a fan of ever since I saw Gattaca as a kid. He’s shown versatility through the decades and even if the film he’s in isn’t great he still pulls something off. Here I have to wonder if there was more to Iian in the book that was left out of this adaptation. There is a hint at some interesting back story that unfortunately is never fleshed out. Sterling K. Brown is someone that I’ve grown to enjoy with every role he’s taken. His portrayal of Chris Darden in The People v. O.J. Simpson got him on people’s radars, but take a look at his other work (I personally enjoy the underrated Hotel Artemis) to see him shine. Here he does the best he can, but with such a minor role he only gets so much out of it.
“I hope I never see you again”
Now we get to my biggest problem with the film, its story. Author Mark Burnell adapted his own book to the screen, but I wonder what got lost in translation. This book has become a series focused on the core character much in the vein of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher books. Sure, we need to set up Stephanie, but what about the rest of the story? Does it meander as much on the page? Was material cut to make the story shorter losing key plot points along the way? The potential in the first half of The Rhythm Section sadly kind of implodes in on itself. I assume that had someone else been hired to adapt it maybe there would have been a better script. That would’ve gotten me interested in further outings with such a great character.
What could’ve been a fun rough around the edges action drama highlighted with bits of espionage feels lacking. It’s a shame that this won’t come to fruition, but I cannot wait to see what Reed Morano does next after The Rhythm Section.
Overall Score 2.5/5
The Shameless Plugs
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