Pop Culture

Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
The Rhythm Section

The Rhythm Section

Describe This Movie In One Grosse Pointe Blank Quote:

MARTIN BLANK: What am I gonna say? 'I killed the president of Paraguay with a fork. How've you been?'

Brief Plot Synopsis: Morose English person opts for murder over Morrisey.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 Pionus parrots out of 5.

Tagline: N/A

Better Tagline: "The Little Bummer Girl."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: English student Stephanie Patrick's (Blake Lively) life spiraled into drugs and prostitution following the death of her entire family in a plane crash. When a journalist named Proctor (Raza Jaffrey) informs her the plane was actually brought down by a bomb, she vows vengeance. But first, she should probably look into getting some training, and that's where Proctor's contact (Jude Law), a shadowy intelligence operative, comes in.

"Critical" Analysis: There's something almost universally appealing about the (almost wholly cinematic) idea that any ordinary human being could be plucked from the droning misery of their everyday lives and turned into a killing machine. The juxtaposition of power against former powerlessness coupled with the idea that our actions might actually matter for once is an attractive one, especially for someone like Stephanie Patrick, whose misery is more pronounced than most.

The Rhythm Section is based on the first novel in Marc Burnell's series about Patrick's adventures. Burnell also wrote the screenplay, which is ... curious, because it's hard to believe he was satisfied with the finished product. This isn't to say the movie is a failure, it's just ... abrupt. Think a CliffsNotes version of John Le Carré.

Something you almost never hear is, "I wish someone would make this movie longer." Unfortunately, when it comes to The Rhythm Method, even padding out the runtime by 20 minutes or so probably wouldn't be enough. In order to flesh out Stephanie's story and make her transition from junkie prostitute to assassin believable. You really need something like a miniseries.

Lively is really swinging for the fences here, and she succeeds more often than not. Her depiction of a woman whose entire world has been annihilated (and her guilt at not having been taken as well) is genuine. The problem is, it isn't until the movie's almost over that she's allowed to express much more than that.

One thing that does resonate is the character's sheer incompetence in her newly chosen vocation, which only goes away in the final act. Don't the let the fact that this was produced by Eon (the company behind all the 007 movies) fool you. Stephanie is no Jane Bond, and only succeeds early on thanks to an unfair fight (her first target is dying of emphysema or something) or dumb luck.

It's refreshing, in other words, having an instrument of vengeance without any "particular set of skills" to begin with. The training session with Jude Law's maybe-MI6 operative are almost laughably abbreviated, but this plays into Morano and Burnell's narrative of Stephanie as, well less of an "unstoppable" killing machine and more of a "halting" one.

As for the potential of a "Stephanie Patrick" series of films ... eh. TRS's meager charms are almost wholly due to Lively's full-on embrace of the character and her interactions with Law, and it's hard not think one of the reasons things are so rushed here is because no one involved really believes there's any hope of a franchise around a damaged heroine with Finn Wolfhard's hairdo shooting guys in the kneecaps.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar