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New to DVD/Blu-Ray - THE RHYTHM SECTION

the rhythm section review
A woman hunts the terrorist responsible for the plane crash that killed her family.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Reed Morano

Starring: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, Daniel Mays, Max Casella


the rhythm section

In a recent interview, producer Barbara Broccoli quashed any notions that James Bond, the character she inherited from her father, Albert, might be gender swapped at some point in the future. Broccoli argued that women deserve new, original characters, rather than making do with second hand heroes. And so Broccoli gives us The Rhythm Section, a female led espionage thriller that follows the 007 template of hopping from one glamorous (and not so glamorous) locale to another. It's clearly hoped that it will kick off a franchise, but it's difficult to see audiences clamouring for a sequel to this tonally confused thriller.


the rhythm section review

Based on the novel by Mark Burnell, The Rhythm Section stars Blake Lively as Stephanie Patrick, a young Londoner who has fallen into drugs and prostitution in the three years since her family was wiped out in a plane crash. When freelance journalist Procter (Raza Jaffrey) tracks Stephanie down to the seedy brothel she now calls home, he shocks her with the revelation that the crash was no accident, but was orchestrated by a terrorist known as Reza (Tawfeek Barhom), who is freely attending a college in London.

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Stephanie purchases a pistol and heads to said college with murder on her mind, but when she takes a seat across from Reza in the cafeteria, she finds herself unable to pull the trigger. Returning to Procter's flat, she discovers the journalist has been assassinated. Taking his collected evidence, she follows a lead to remote Scotland, where she encounters former MI6 agent Iain Boyd (Jude Law). Under Boyd's tutelage, Stephanie is trained in the art of killing, and the two set out to uncover the truth behind the conspiracy.


the rhythm section review

Stephanie Patrick may be intended as a female rival for Bond, but tonally, The Rhythm Section couldn't be further from the adventures of 007. For the most part it's grounded in a realistic verisimilitude, with Stephanie struggling to transform herself into someone truly capable of taking another life. She's mostly out of her depth, finding herself in situations she isn't mentally and physically prepared for. The movie doesn't shy away from the harsh realities of revenge, with Stephanie and Boyd at one point committing an atrocity of their own from which there is no turning back. More so than the Bond series, the inspiration for The Rhythm Section would seem to be thrillers like Fritz Lang's Cloak and Dagger and Alfred Hitchcock's Torn Curtain, in which everymen are forced to commit acts of violence as they are drawn into a dangerous world of espionage.

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But it seems the gritty thriller director Reed Morano set out to make may not be the same movie expected by its producers, as The Rhythm Section often feels like a film that has been taken out of its director's hands and subsequently interfered with. The moody tone is regularly interrupted by the baffling decision to add a classic rock soundtrack, which has the effect of snapping you out of the drama. When Stephanie is presented with one last shot at revenge, Roy Orbison's 'It's Now or Never' cues up in groan inducing fashion. A subplot involving a former CIA agent (Sterling K. Brown) feels like most of it ended up on the cutting room floor (possibly due to Hollywood's discomfort at portraying interracial romances), while the film ends by committing the cardinal sin of screenwriting, with a character verbally wrapping up the plot like it's a Scooby Doo adventure.


the rhythm section review

It's a shame that The Rhythm Section is such a narrative and tonal mess, because there's enough here to lay the foundations for a promising franchise. Lively is a captivating lead, even if her accent doesn't fully convince, and her Karate Kid-esque training portion with Law's gruff ex-spook is the film's highlight, the two riffing off each other in compelling fashion. While Morano's bland staging of dialogue scenes betrays her primary status as a TV director, she brings a unique touch to the action set-pieces, with a car chase filmed in a single take and a pulse-pounding climactic fight as a suicide bomber's detonator ticks down. And she's clearly a genre fan, as evidenced when Stephanie dons a ponytailed wig and top buttoned blouse, a nod to the female led action movie's roots in Japanese cinema of the '70s.

The Rhythm Section is on UK DVD and blu-ray June 8th.




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