[Screen It]


(2020) (Blake Lively, Jude Law) (R)

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Dramatic Thriller: A woman trains to become an assassin in order to avenge the deaths of her parents and siblings in a plane crash.
It's been three years since Stephanie Patrick (BLAKE LIVELY) lost her parents and siblings in a plane crash that claimed the lives of several hundred other people. Since then, her life has been a downward spiral into drugs and prostitution, with bruises all over her body displaying the sort of clientele she's servicing.

She thinks the next man who's booked time with her will be just more of the same, but he isn't interested in having sex with her. Instead, Keith Proctor (RAZA JAFFREY) is a reporter who believes that the crash wasn't an accident and instead was the result of a bombing. And not just that, but that the bomb maker, Reza (TAWFEEK BARHOM), is freely walking the streets of London.

After being unable to kill that terrorist herself when given the chance, and following something bad that happens to that reporter, Stephanie seeks out his source, known to her only by map coordinates. She ends traveling a long way to find Iain Boyd (JUDE LAW), a former intelligence agent who knows what's going on but initially wants nothing to do with her. She eventually wears down that opinion, however, and he ends up training her in the ways of being an assassin.

When he thinks she's ready, he sends her on her way, with marching orders to find another former intelligence agent, Marc Serra (STERLING K. BROWN), who knows who was behind the bombing beyond Reza. Armed with that information and her new set of assassin skills, Stephanie sets out to dole out justice on those responsible for killing her family.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The sole purpose of any form of entertainment -- be it a novel, song, TV show or movie -- is to make the reader, listener or viewer feel something. And that response can be related to any human emotion or combination thereof, even if it's just the giddy equivalent of having gotten off a thrill ride.

Without that sort of emotional response -- and related connection to one or more characters of any such tale -- it doesn't make any difference how well-made, slick, creative or clever your story might be. Yes, just as dullness can be a buzz-kill in the real world, being dull and eliciting zero emotional response can be downright deadly for any sort of entertainment.

All of which brings us around to "Rhythm Section," the latest film where an otherwise unlikely female candidate is turned into a deadly assassin. While not as abundant as films featuring similar male characters, those featuring "the fairer sex" no longer have any sort of novelty factor going for them.

Here, Blake Lively plays Stephanie, a young woman whose life completely unraveled after the deaths of her parents and siblings in an airline crash a few years back. Now a drug-addled prostitute, the only thing apparently keeping her alive -- and presumably getting her through behavior that's left her fairly bruised -- are memories of happy times with her family.

Enter a reporter (Raza Jaffrey) who informs her that he's fairly sure the "crash" was just a cover-up for a terrorist bombing and that said bomber is freely walking the streets of London as they speak. Enraged, she buys a gun but can't get herself to pull the trigger when she gets the chance.

And then the reporter ends up dead and with nothing more than map coordinates for that man's intel contact, she sets out for a remote location. There, she finds a former intelligence agent (Jude Law) who, natch, isn't happy that she's just shown up or the mess she's caused back home.

Apparently based solely on his efficient way of manhandling her for trespassing, she wants him to train her how to be an assassin to avenge the family deaths. He informs her that she's barking up the wrong tree and even if he could train her, the results ultimately wouldn't be worth it for her.

Undeterred and with nothing to lose and apparently nothing else to live for, she learns quickly, meets another former intelligence agent (Sterling K. Brown) who provides hit information, and then starts taking out the bad guys.

It's uber familiar storytelling material and director Reed Morano -- working from a screenplay by Mark Burnell -- isn't able to do much of anything of note with it, aside from a few decently executed action sequences. But the big issue is we don't feel enough to care outside of the default setup.

Sure, she's a junkie hooker and has fond memories of her family (occasionally seen in flashbacks), and feels guilt over their deaths. Unfortunately, there's simply not enough present in terms of storytelling or Lively's performance to engage us emotionally about any of that. Perhaps, had there been prologue scenes of her with her family, the plane incident itself or anything else in that same vein, then we might have better felt her sense of loss, despair and, eventually, laser-focused rage.

As it stands, it just feels like the summary of her character, resulting in a somewhat plodding and uninvolving drama occasionally interrupted by bouts of violent action. Oh, and a travelogue of sorts touching down in various spots around the world, giving the flick something of a pseudo Bond feel, which shouldn't come as a surprise considering the same folks behind the 007 pics are involved with this one as well.

Gloria Estefan may have sung long ago that "The rhythm is gonna get you." So will having an absence of connective emotion. "The Rhythm Section" might understand the structure of the tune, but otherwise comes off tonally flat. It rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed January 28, 2020 / Posted January 31, 2020

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