The Rhythm Section ★★★½

From the previews I thought we were getting yet another revenge flick (a la Peppermint) only starring perhaps a more gritty actress in Blake Lively.

Video Review - just left the theater (no spoilers)

Stephanie Patrick (Lively), distraught and depressed from her family being killed in an airplane crash turns to drugs and prostitution when a customer (who turns out to be a journalist digging into a juicy story) pays her "just to talk" and tells her that it wasn't an accident at all, it was a bombing. It isn't long before Stephanie tracks down Ian Boyd ("B") to train her into physical and mental shape to be a cold blooded spy killer.

The story is directed and written by Mark Burnell, adapted from his own 1999 novel, the debut in a series. This is produced by Eon which comes from Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson of James Bond fame. This appears to be an attempt to spawn a female spy thriller series, although Patrick's character is much more ordinary woman than believable master spy.

Lively's performance is excellent. She makes very few mistakes and she's a chameleon in appearance. From wigs to hair color changes and makeup. The only way I could ever tell it was her is from her signature birthmark on the right side of her face next to her nose -- which wasn't covered up with prosthetic or anything.

That is the fundamental strength and flaw of this film. That we spend a significant amount of time focusing on training and readying Stephanie for battle. I think where most are going to take issue with this film is that it is either too much or too little time for her transformation into lethal spy.

Not realizing this was supposed to be a spy thriller as part of a series was a definite advantage for me watching this film and you can tell from my video review linked above, that I was taken positively by the film. At the same time there were scenes that weren't quite right.

I haven't read any of the books in this series and have zero knowledge how faithful this is to the novel. Therefore this review and rating has no bearing on the strength or weaknesses of the adaptation.

After seeing, I'm definitely interested in reading the novel. Not like let me go out right now and add it to my Kindle interested, but ... somewhat interested. The movie for me is one of the better ones I've seen in January 2020, a month full of mostly mediocre to bad films. It rises in that pile significantly.

I gave it 3.5 stars and then went along with 4 in the video review, but after sleeping on it, I'm knocking it back to my original 3.5 stars rating here in the text review. This still might be higher than it actually deserves -- and upon rewatching I might drop it again in the future -- but it was just nice to, finally, see something that felt more like a different revenge story than the other dozens I've seen.

If I had rated it as a spy story, not sure I'd even give it 3 stars, because it isn't that fantastic as a spy series debut. Would I want to see another movie from this character? Probably not, but as a one-off I liked it. This is a plus on Lively's acting resume. Recommended.

Todd Russell liked this review