‘Rhythm Section’ completely out of rhythm

Entertainment

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – If you remember, last week I mentioned that January is when a lot of bad movies get dumped into theaters. The new Blake Lively film, “The Rhythm Section,” is a great example of that practice.

Lively is best known for the TV series “Gossip Girl” and with any luck will never be known for starring in this film. She plays Stephanie Patrick, a British woman who is leading an ordinary life until her family is killed in a plane crash. Her response to this life-changing tragedy is to go down a path of self-destruction that includes drug addiction and prostitution.

That changes when a journalist (Raza Jeffrey) finds her and reveals that the crash was not an accident. There was a bomb on the plane planted there just to kill one person. The other 246 people who died  – including her family – were just collateral damage.

Stephanie becomes obsessed with getting revenge on the people behind the bombing. This sets in a motion a script that is confusing, idiotic and boring. Every step in the effort to get vengeance is forced to the point of being painful to watch.

That starts with her tracking down a former M16 agent (Jude Law), who decides for no logical reason to put Stephanie through a strange training program designed to turn her into a cold-blooded killer. This is not like “La Femme Nikita” where the basic tools were in place for that character and there was plenty of serious training.

It seems all one needs to be a killer for hire is the ability to swim in icy water, run a few miles and know how to control their heartbeat and breathing – better known as the body’s rhythm section.

Director Reed Morano (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) even manages to mess up key elements of the action film. A long car chase is filmed as if the viewer is in the passenger’s seat. This helps get across the gun shots coming through the window and the car being knocked around. It does not create the sense of action tension that makes such sequences work.

Morano fills the time between the action scenes with long passages of Liveley’s character staring at a wall, staring at a door, staring at a lake and staring at herself staring. The pacing of the script by first-time screenwriter Mark Burnell is a half a beat below a turtle and a half a beat above a corpse. This movie could be cut to 45 minutes and still be overloaded with dull passages.

What makes “The Rhythm Section” such a bad offering is that everything about it is out of rhythm. Lively’s character waffles between being too hesitant to hurt a target and then moments later is tough enough to kill with ease. At least that’s better than the 2018 film “Peppermint” where Jennifer Garner went from grieving for her family to being a fearless killer with no actual training.

Jude Law’s character lacks the kind of mystery that makes such roles work. Along with every other element of this movie, there is no guessing if he is good or bad. It’s all so obvious.

And Sterling K. Brown is wasted as his twists and turns of his character end up being mostly straight lines. Even with all his acting skills, Brown can’t help this film.

Even the soundtrack is muddled going from the haunting melodies of Hans Zimmer to weird pop tunes by artists like Elvis Presley. This kind of music mangling only works if there is a camp element to the story and there is not one here.

In the end, there is nothing that makes “The Rhythm Section” worth seeing. The only good thing to say is that it opens on the weekend of the Super Bowl and that means there will be less witnesses to this criminally bad work by Lively and company.

The film has earned a must justified R rating for violence, sexual content, language and some drug use.

Also opening this weekend.

“Gretel & Hansel” is the latest twist on the classic fairytale where two young people go into the woods and end up in a deadly cooking competition with a dark force living there. It is rated PG-13 for disturbing images. Sophia Lillis stars.

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