REVIEW: THE RHYTHM SECTION combines the formula of the current Bond film series with a dash of La Femme Nikita & John Wick in a paint-by-numbers would-be franchise starter.


Blake Lively headlines this would be grounded take on a ‘Nikita as Wick’ revenge/spy/thriller from the producers of Bond. While it has some innovative scenes, it suffers from pacing issues & a thin screenplay.

Producer Barbara Broccoli has minted gold from the Daniel Craig Bond reboot that started with 2006’s Casino Royale leading to his would-be final outing this year in No Time To Die, the 25th Bond fil overseen by the Broccoli family. It stands to reason that in the current climate where revenge and spy thrillers that sort of spinoff from the Bond Formula like John Wick and Atomic Blonde are doing very well, that the producers of Bond might want to get into that market. Thus, we have The Rhythm Section, helmed by indie director Reed Morano, and starring Blake Lively as Stephanie, a woman haunted by the tragic death of her family in an airplane crash. Careening from a role as a promising scholar at Oxford to a life turning tricks in a seedy underground bordello, Stephanie is approached by a journalist named Proctor (Tawfeek Barhom) who offers her information that the plane was actually downed by a bomb built by an engineer named Reza (Tawfeek Barhom) and that the British government has covered it up. This sets Stephanie on a mission to try and take revenge on those who ended her family; ultimately leading her to a former MI6 agent named B (Jude Law), who she attempts to get to train her to be good enough to get her revenge, along with the information brokered by ex-CIA analyst Serra (Sterling K. Brown).

Lively is surprisingly the strongest performer in this star-studded cast, given the most on-screen time to develop an arc and grow stronger from the defeated point we find her in at the beginning of the film. That being said, her Stephanie is basically a tweaked modern version of Anna Parillaud’s La Femme Nikita, down to the messy black pixie haircut as an obvious homage. Lively’s Stephanie is no Wick or Atomic Blonde; she stumbles through her missions with the barest of training which adds a strong element of tension through the film and results in one of the most innovative car chase scenes I’ve seen in years. These are the highlights in a film whose pacing is extremely problematic. There is very little story and more atmosphere early on and information is filtered out to us as the viewers and to the protagonist in a very languid pace where it serves to set up the next travel showpiece. As such, while we get something a realized character with Stephanie, Law’s B and Gray’s Serra are largely stock characters which is a disappointment given the caliber of the actors involved. Richard Brake gets the most colorful affects to play off in a sadly underwritten role. The film’s biggest issue is largely the similar pacing to the Broccoli’s Bond films without the backstory to support small character moments. As such, we get a lot of slow scenes without much to give them gravitas and the overall film suffers from this scenario of underwritten setpieces where characters act in a way to advance the plot versus what we’re told of where their motivations and interests lie.

The Rhythm Section seems very geared towards setting up a franchise with its climax, and despite a strong performance from Lively, it feels as if that end goal underwrites the whole production of the film and does it a disservice as a result. There are some innovative shots here and a strong performance from Lively, but the third act seems underwritten with an unsatisfying conclusion. Worth a watch, but not on the level of a Bond or Nikita.