After her family died in an airplane crash, Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) becomes inconsolable and her life goes quickly off the rails. However, when she's informed that the crash wasn't a crash but a bombing, she sets off on a path of revenge that leads her to be trained by an ex-MI6 agent (Jude Law) to kill those responsible...
Although 'The Rhythm Section' has the credentials of a Bond movie - it's about spies, it's set in exotic locations, it's by EON Productions - it's far closer to an arthouse effort than a big-budget blockbuster. In fact, drafting in Reed Morano - who's made her career in stylish TV shows like 'The Handmaid's Tale', 'Halt and Catch Fire' and 'Billions' - speaks to an attempt to create something that's far more considered than just plain old explosions and gadgets.
On the surface, 'The Rhythm Section' has everything going for it. Blake Lively in a serious, meaty role with an upcoming director, in a genre that's crying out for new perspectives - but the problem with it is that you've pretty much seen it all before. Compared to something like 'Atomic Blonde', there's something much different going on, but it's not helped by the lack of flow to it and the humdrum script and plot.
It's a shame, as Blake Lively is trying her damnedest to make it work and Reed Morano is absolutely a director worth watching. Sadly, Mark Burnell's script and plotting is far too clumsy and clunky to be helped, and doesn't always hit the mark where it should. Still, how Morano handles the action is fascinating and how Lively plays it is rich and authentic. There are no big, sweeping action setpieces and the fight sequences are messy, bloody affairs and done with little flourish - but that helps to make it all the more convincing.
The supporting cast, made up of the likes of Jude Law, Sterling K. Brown, Raza Jaffrey, all do their work well, but it's Lively's show and she's more than capable of carrying the story. Sadly, that story's a little bit too hokey and flat for it to be anything other than just OK. The female-assassin trope is well-trodden, and in recent years, the likes of 'Killing Eve' have given it a fresh perspective. 'The Rhythm Section' has that behind and in front of the camera, but on the page and in the script, it's sadly a let down.