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The Screen Scene: The Rhythm Section

The Screen Scene with Scott Phillips

Actress Blake Lively tends to improve every mediocre film she has appeared in over the years. Unfortunately, the films themselves remain mediocre. When it comes to The Rhythm Section, a new spy thriller starring the young actress, she gives it her all, but she still can’t kick start the film to life.

Lively plays Stephanie Patrick, a young woman who loses her entire family in a plane crash. Stephanie’s grief sends her tumbling into a cycle of drug abuse and depression. When an investigative journalist suggests the plane crash was no accident, she embarks on a quest to find the parties responsible and have her revenge on them. Along the way, she encounters a former intelligence operative named “B” (played by Jude Law).

The opening plot beats are familiar. Stephanie and B don’t trust each other and make a point of mentioning that they don’t know who to trust. B shows Stephanie some tough love and helps her kick her heroin habit. Then B trains Stephanie in hand-to-hand combat and firearms.

The title of the film refers to the way a professional shooter develops an internal rhythm with her breathing and pulse rate to find the perfect moment to pull the trigger. Unfortunately, Stephanie never exhibits that level of competence with a gun in the entire film.

After a couple of weeks on the shooting range, Stephanie’s ready to take on the terrorists of the world. When each of her rounds finally hits the target, B mutters, “It’s time to get you in the field.”

It’s hard not to sound sarcastic when you discuss the premise of this film. The Golden Gate Bridge couldn’t suspend this much disbelief. Stephanie bumbles and stumbles her way through violent encounters with the enemy and somehow manages to stay alive.

The shaky hand-held camera work and gritty production values let the audience know that this is deadly serious business which often makes Stephanie’s character that much more laughable.

The film does have some upside. Lively and Jude Law have solid onscreen chemistry, and the film never makes the mistake of forcing them to be unlikely romantic partners. While this is far from an action movie, there is a heart-stopping car chase that makes the most of the film’s shaky cam approach. But, in the end the premise is just too much to swallow: a heroin addict who becomes a trained assassin after a few weeks at spy camp.

I give The Rhythm Section two out of five popcorn buckets. If you want to see a great film about an amateur ineptly seeking revenge for his murdered family members, check out the 2013 indie thriller Blue Ruin which is currently playing on Netflix. It’s a far better investment of your viewing time.

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