Jane Bond meets Johnny English.
Movie goers are a forgiving lot.
Not only will we believe a man can fly, we’ll buy Vin Diesel plummeting down a mountain in his “Fast & Furious” car and emerging without a scratch.
You just gotta get the tone right. It’s why “The Rhythm Section” hits so many false notes. Call it a symphony of unforced errors – and the worst titled movie in memory.
Blake Lively does all she can to sell its preposterous story. Director Reed Morano pretends the material is worthy of the Old Vic, not your local discount theater.
Lively stars as Stephanie, a woman mourning the loss of her nuclear family in a plane crash. Her life disintegrated along with the fuselage. Three years later, she’s battered, bruised and selling her body for cash.
We’re already scratching our heads. Sure, her grief must be immeasurable, but would a sharp, upper-middle class woman descend like this?
Let’s buy it and move on.
A freelance journalist (Raza Jaffrey) tracks down Stephanie with startling news. An Islamic terrorist took down the plane, not any mechanical flaw. (Yes, at least one film critic dubbed the plot point “Islamophobic”)
Stephanie’s grief spikes again, but she’s given a lifeline of sorts when she meets Boyd (Jude Law), a former MI-6 agent. He wants to turn her rage into a weapon, someone who can infiltrate the baddies and bring them to justice.
So he opens up an unofficial spy training camp, although he spends half the time beating Stephanie up to keep her humble (and get his kicks??)
Before long Stephanie is sporting a series of awful wigs and getting her hands dirty in the spy game. Can she mete out justice, or will her death be another family tragedy?
No one could salvage this loopy spy drama, produced by the James Bond team. Don’t tell that to Lively. She’s working hard to bring her character to life and give Stephanie some real-world skills. It almost works now and again, but the absurd plot details keep getting in the way.
Take Sterling K. Brown, cast as a jaded informant who swallows Stephanie’s “let’s play spies” disguise.
You have to see it all to believe it, but the bigger questions remain. Why take a silly story and drench it in anguish? No one’s having fun here, including the audience.
“Doing this movie was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Lively of The Rhythm Section https://t.co/c9PB1aFQ56
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) January 29, 2020
A slight shift in tone, turning “The Rhythm Section” into a parody of sorts, could have transformed the material. Instead, we’re left trying to track a story with more holes than a quilt in your great aunt’s attic.
It’s easy to imagine more than a few explanatory sequences got lost on the cutting room floor. Or, at least we hope that’s the case.
Mild spoiler alert: the film wraps with the suggestion we haven’t seen the last of Superspy Stephanie. C’mon, folks, it’s a little late to turn this into a comedy.
HiT or Miss: “The Rhythm Section” offers well-manicured action and a strong lead performance, but the plot details are impossible to believe from start to finish.