The Rhythm Section

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With apologies to Leiber and Stoller, I’ll start my review sung to Elvis:


Numb right after 7:00, when I went to see

The stupidest revenge flick I ever did see

It was dumber, oh boy, than Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

This whole “Rhythm Section” with stupid terrorist gangs —

I’m gonna mock. Everybody, will mock.

Everybody in the whole cinema

Was complaining about this big crock.


Female director Reed Morano (apparently it matters now if a director is female, so people have a reason to complain during Oscar nominations), did solid work as a cinematographer. I loved the indie film she shot, Frozen River. It’s safe to say, she will be a director that isn’t nominated in 2020, at least not for this.

Morano gave us a moronic picture, a predictable revenge thriller, that’s so utterly bad.

It’s based on one of the four Mark Burnell novels featuring Stephanie Patrick (he also wrote the screenplay). She’s a junkie prostitute, who is visited by a john…err…journalist. He paid his good money for a 30 minute…conversation. What he gets instead is tossed out on his ear. But he leaves behind his business card. They always do.

It cracks me up when movies have so many cliches and similar styles. In fact, this movie starts in Tangiers, with her approaching someone at the computer, and putting a gun to his head. A quick cut goes to the start of the story and we’ll see what happens with these two later. Almost an identical scene to the opening of The Gentleman (in theaters now), with Matthew McConaughey sitting at a bar and having a man approach and put a gun to his head, with blood splattering into his mug of beer.

Blake Lively is okay in this part, not wearing make-up and looking ragged. The problem is that she reminded me of Bridget Fonda in Point of No Return (La Femme Nikita for American audiences); especially when wigs are used in various killings. And, why would a junkie prostitute want to start killing? Well, because she learns that the plane crash that killed her family, was a terrorist act. And she wants revenge. It’s just odd that someone who was an Oxford educated, brilliant woman…would become a druggie after such a tragedy. Only in fictional stories.

Reporter Keith Proctor (Raza Jaffrey) must be good at his job. He’s got that thing all investigators (or serial killers) have on their walls in movies — various newspaper clips, maps, photos, and arrows drawn and things written, showing that they really did their research and know what’s going on. He also decides he can let Stephanie come and go as she pleases, giving her keys to his flat; because that’s what we usually do with a druggie we just meet.

Stephanie travels to Scotland, where an ex-CIA agent (Jude Law) wants nothing to do with her, but then ends up training her; because…well, she’s determined. It’s like Rocky bugging Mickey until he relents, but with hitmen instead of boxers. And when he starts the rigorous training (which, like all movies, involves vomiting), she shows she’s a tough pupil. She swims in cold water, lets him beat her up and smash her into walls and tables, and even ramming her off the road in a car. He becomes so confident that she can calm down while shooting (slowing the breathing, like the bass and drum rhythm section of a band)…that he puts on a bulletproof vest and insists she shoot him. Any guess on what happens there?

One of my many movie pet peeves, is someone being trained to become the ultimate killer. Especially female characters. We’re supposed to watch a movie like Atomic Blonde, Peppermint, or Red Sparrow, and just think with proper training, a woman could beat up bigger, stronger men. I had a hard enough time buying that when it was Bruce Lee surrounded by folks, I’m not going to be persuaded that a woman a few months from a smack addiction could do this. At least in this, Stephanie usually comes close to losing each fight she’s involved in.

Stephanie takes on the identity of one of the toughest hitwomem ever — Petra Reuter. Everyone thought she died, but…assuming her identity gets her a meet with Marc Serra (Sterling K. Brown, in one of the few performances from him I haven’t liked). He is able to feed her the info she needs, and to be assigned new hits, which gives her a little spending money. Hey…for 2 mil a hit, I might let Jude Law smash my face into a wall for training.

It would be an interesting dynamic that she is so bad when it comes to facing off with the various bad guys, and freezing up at the big moment. Yet we’ve seen that before, too.

There’s also one of those dopey scenes where she has to pretend to be a high-end call girl, meeting up with a john she needs to kill. It might be the dumbest scene you see in a film all year.

Not a single scene in this movie rings true, and it’s a weak plot. It also has some pacing problems.

Tack onto all that, the annoying shaky cam.

It is shot okay in some interesting locations, and there’s one great car chase. I’m just curious as to how many wigs were harmed in the filming of this.

I would give it credit for the great collection of songs used. We hear VU’s “Waiting for the Man,” Brende Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” Elvis’ “It’s Now or Never,” and the film ends with a smokin’ hot version of Lead Belly’s “Where Did You Sleep Last Night.”

Yet even that collection of great tunes feels like simply like something all these types of movies do now (I’ve noticed this trend after Pulp Fiction). Yet it’s the only reason I’m giving this 1 star out of 5. Skip the theatres this weekend and stay home watching all the Super Bowl stuff instead. Spoiler Alert: The Mountain Dew/Bryan Cranston parody spot on The Shining shines!


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