After a couple really good crime and action movies this January, “The Rhythm Section” arrived in theaters to remind us that the dead of winter is when bad movies get dumped into theaters.
Dull and ponderous, “The Rhythm Section” gets pretty much everything wrong about making a movie. The characters are not sympathetic, the story is anemic, the action is brief and the cinematography is full of itself. This might be the most boring movie about international assassins ever made.
After losing her family in a plane crash, Stephanie Patrick loses herself to drugs and prostitution. But when she finds out, years later, that the plane was brought down by a terrorist bombing, Stephanie somehow hooks up with the right people to turn her into an international assassin to take out the terrorists responsible.
The main problem with “The Rhythm Section” is that everything is in place for a good movie, but everyone behind the camera instead makes a bad movie. A young woman training from scratch to become a skilled assassin in order to get revenge on the terrorists who killed her family? Sounds like a solid revenge flick. A cast that stars Blake Lively, Jude Law and Sterling K. Brown? Sounds good to me!
But “The Rhythm Section” blows all of it because it is far more focused on setting the mood, ignoring everything else in the movie. This film is 80% slow, lingering, sad shots of star Blake Lively looking disheveled. This is clearly meant to invoke mood, but that mood doesn’t land. it just makes the move slow and plodding.
There are, perhaps, a couple of good action scenes, like a car chase in the narrow streets of Tangier or a hand-to-hand fight in a closed cabin, but those do not a movie make.
The plot is simple, yet the script still manages to twist it up with incomprehensible details. Rather than just spell out a simple path to revenge, the movie keeps adding new characters and new targets and random tangents that then get randomly tied back into the main plot. Characters seem to work together and sleep together because the movie needed to have something.
And in the end, Stephanie is a terrible assassin. The movie paints this bleak picture of how dark and tortured she’s become, and how brutal this journey is, but also how strong she must be as a person. But of the three assassinations in the film, she messes up each and every one. And that is not played for laughs or for drama. She’s just really bad at this.
“The Rhythm Section” is exactly the sort of movie that earned January its reputation for being a studio dumping ground.
Be sure to check out my discussion of the film on the Sentinel Cinema podcast at www.romesentinel.com or now on Facebook.