The Rhythm Section

Feb 3, 2020

Lively is a vengeful  heroine with a bloody mission.

Film reviewed: The Rhythm Section

Grade: B

Director: Reed Morano (The Handmaid’s Tale)

Screenplay: Mark Burnell (Stephanie Patrick novels)

Cast: Blake Lively (The Shallows), Jude Law (Captain Marvel)

Rating: R

Runtime: 1h 49m

By: John DeSando

A revenge story is usually fashioned after a Charles Bronson or Liam Neeson thriller in which the plot points are predictable. In The Rhythm Section heroine Stephanie/Lisa (Blake Lively) loses family (father, mother and two siblings) in a plane tragedy and seeks revenge on those who plotted the crash. Kate Beckinsale and Angelina Jolie have played bloody roles before but not with such intensity and lack of style as Lively.

As Mike LaSalle of The San Francisco Chronicle wrote about Lively:

“She kicks this superior thriller up an extra notch, to the point that it’s not only worth seeing for thrills, but for her.” Although the revenge tropes are well represented, she brings a seriousness and a rough charm to make her my favorite even beyond the many sparkles of Nikita.

Using her default to drug abuse and prostitution as dramatic character points, Lively brings her character back, though never to the glamor of her characters in The Shallows or A Simple Favor. She looks like a shabby, grief-stricken woman with little clue about the dangerous world she has stepped into.

Jude Law playing M16 rogue agent Boyd is effective as her reluctant mentor; it’s just that Stephanie has a drive and intelligence that mostly doesn’t need a male to give her success. Martial skills he gives her, but even he knows she will always be vulnerable Stephanie/Lisa, who has a better chance now to survive and even to cause mayhem, even though initially reluctant to pull the trigger.

Director Reed Morano, after her Handmaid’s Tale success, includes some on-point songs like I’m Sorry and Dream a Little Dream, and he has a chase scene as good as any even in Fast and Furious. The repetitious soft-focus flashbacks could have mostly been left out. However, relying on Lively’s expert expression, he fills the screen with her closeups, not a bad choice to entertain us as we all pursue some bad mid-Easterners with her.

The Rhythm Section is an enjoyable thriller that reminds us, like The Silence of the Lambs, this movie time of year does not have to be dull.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at