The Rhythm Section

The Rhythm Section ★½

“Think of your heart as the drums. Your breathing as the bass.”
Based on writer Mark Burnell's novel of the same title, ‘The Rhythm Section’ (2020) is a jarringly stitched-together miscellany of action film clichés and formulaic inclinations within a guideless quagmire, encompassing a languid revenge thriller that lacks the intensity, novelty, and emotional incentive to fulfill an entertaining endeavor. Despite an admirably grim and pessimistic performance from leading actress Blake Lively, many of the qualities that would make her protagonist either compelling or enduring are squandered due to how bland the character is written. The amateurish and reckless quirks given to the main character for a more humanistic approach flaunt greater discrepancies rather than add a level of tense realism because of how one-dimensional her actions are throughout the film. This muddled characterization effectively undermines occasional gestures towards the blatant pseudo-feminist empowerment and the film’s overall themes of the futility of revenge that negligently serve to reinforce the hollowness of its main lead. The film’s lackluster combination of uninteresting twists alongside a conventional premise makes the narrative structure redundant and ultimately uneven, especially when considering the leaps in information and story that fail to give context or development to specific characters or to tie the substance of the narrative together. ‘The Rhythm Section’ (2020) boats unique unconventionality with its stylistic visual aesthetic, but this idiosyncratic style provides a discernable backhanded compliment as the film’s editing and camerawork are genuinely atrocious and annoying. The direction and especially the editing of the film attempts to add a layer of artistic merit to fundamentally uninteresting and unnecessarily drawn-out scenes by intercutting sequences of future events or simply fading to black, which haphazardly leaves certain scenes unresolved or, worse yet, relinquishes any conceivable sense of tension or investment. Furthermore, the glaringly unfitting musical choices sprinkled throughout the film are distractingly upbeat and sanguine when compared to the film’s somber demeanor, attempting to instill a momentous build-up when virtually nothing of interest happens and each song barely has a chance to breathe as all abruptly cut from the scene without any visual cue. ‘The Rhythm Section’ (2020) offers rarely anything of interest or fascination given its hackneyed execution save for specific action set pieces that are notable for their tracking-shot gimmicks and heightened energy and urgency, but in hindsight, these sequences deliver proper cohesion with the alleged narrative and never justify their abrupt, brisk intensity. ‘The Rhythm Section’ (2020) is devoid of a tight rhythm all its own, resulting in a relentlessly dull and aggressively incohesive film that is so clumsy and predictable it’s hard to believe there was any consistent cadence to begin with. It’s a film that takes threadbare genre material and removes all the gritty texture and clever ingenuity, leaving behind an underdeveloped plot, an inscrutable main character, and a sense of gravitas that is entirely unearned. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to step in time away from this contrived espionage thriller at any cost. Thank you!

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