"The Rhythm Section" Review

"The Rhythm Section" is currently being estimated to lose Paramount Pictures as much as 40 million dollars. It's an unfortunate projection, to say the least. What went wrong, exactly?

The film stars Blake Lively as Stephanie Patrick, a woman whose life goes off the rails when her family is tragically killed in a terrorist attack. The plane explosion is one she harbours considerable guilt over particularly when she later reveals that her family changed their flight so she could come on holiday with them but ultimately decided she didn't want to.

Like many spy/action thrillers, revenge is a key part of the story. Stephanie wants to find the man responsible for the terrorist attack and seeks out Iain Boyd (Jude Law) to train her to do exactly that.

What sets The Rhythm Section apart from other spy or action thrillers is how deeply human Stephanie is. There is no air of invincibility or super-human action/stunt sequences. Some critics have called her 'inept' as a spy, but that is an unnecessarily harsh description. This is a more emotionally driven story that focuses more on the emotional devastation Stephanie continues to experience over losing her family.

I like a flashy, super-human spy film more than most. The spectacle of seeing people do incredible, dare I say impossible things in fight scenes is both entertaining and awe-inspiring. However, this film's merits come from the focus on Stephanie's emotional character arc far more than her physical one. She does reclaim ownership of her body again after spiraling down a path of drug addiction and prostitution, but the emotional healing is the driving force behind the physical one.

The best guess I can make about the film not being able to properly find its audience is down to the marketing. The trailer gives away the climactic action piece of the film, so anyone watching it and hoping that it's just a teaser for bigger brawls yet to be revealed will end up disappointed. It also uses the song played at the very end of the film to signify Stephanie reaching the peak of her journey, so viewers may feel unprepared to see such a physically and emotionally vulnerable protagonist for so much of the story. The trailer would have been better off taking a more a honest approach by previewing how Stephanie lost her family and must go through the grueling process of training herself physically and doing considerable emotional labour to find the strength to find the person responsible for their deaths. False advertising is a very short-term strategy, and as evidenced by these numbers, it didn't pay off.


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