The Rhythm Section (2020) Eye for Film Movie Review

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“This list of shots doesn’t just include crosses and double crosses, craftsmanship and techniques, the whole enterprise that gets personal. Among them, though, are a few moments of invention.”

Stephanie Patrick’s family has passed away. A great loss, but that may not have been an accident. When offered answers, it sets her on the path to revenge. This path is not easy however, the old saw about digging two graves does not begin to cover the effort and mistakes of his search for retaliation.

“it’s not a tragedy, it’s a cliché”, and The Rhythm Section is full of it. A conspiracy wall, a selection of practice montages, his outback depictions of espionage and vice, red light and red lines. Still, it has its moments. The camera close to Blake Lively’s face as she makes a choice between waiting and drowning. The cold gaze of the camera from above on her lost in the freezing space. Spies may have come from the cold in the past, but here is a secret agency that not only lies in the shadows but also in the chills.

We’ve had stories like this before, La Femme Nikita has been remade enough times for it to count as one. There’s been similar territory in the work of Michael Keaton in American Assassin, in Tommy Lee Jones in The Hunted, even a succession of similar characters played by Stacey Keach and Brian Cox. These roles are all tied to an involvement of one of the ur-texts of these one-man armies, Rambo’s Trautman (the great Richard Crennan) built a system that would teach a man to “eat things that would do vomit a goat”. Jude Law’s turn is part bobble hat and bullying, making Stephanie someone new. Tempered not only by temperature but soaked in blood. The Global War on Terror is a conflict that demands safeguards, and The Rhythm Section owes debts in damages.

Heart as drum, lungs as bass. The recurring presence of this description as a means of grounding the intention to do violence. The recurring presence of this beat in the soundtrack, one hit among many others. Sometimes it’s the loop of the story, or the return of a particular refrain, memory as melody. Sometimes they are sophisticated, subtle and strong syncopes, at others they are almost comical car accidents. The song choices, too, are sometimes over the top, with a heroin user ambushing the strains of I’m Waiting For My Man expected to put just over twenty-six dollars in the jar “on their nose.”

This list of snaps isn’t just about crosses and double crosses, craftsmanship and techniques, the whole business gets personal. Among them, however, are a few moments of invention. It’s easy to set impending violence to music, but Brenda Lee’s I’m Sorry is a choice. The hairstyle and the costume also evoke 1960, the femme fatale as an archetype goes back further than that.

It is based on the novel by Mark Burnell. He scripts, produces. A second feature based on one of his works, Remote Control, is somewhere in the pre-production wasteland. Director Reed Morano has a resume that speaks to many of the highlights of this movie. His feature debut Meadowland was also steeped in grief, I Think We Are Alone Now also steeped in difficult relationships in complex sequels. Her long history spotlighting music videos, including Beyonce’s Lemonade, feels evident in some of the song choices. Here, cinematic duties are handled by Sean Bobbitt. Although the locations are much wider, there is a similar balance between speed and violence as in The Place Beyond The Pines. Despite its international scope, it is often close, many shots center on its central distribution, alone in landscapes often austere in their pastoral peace.

While the title is taken from the book, The Wrecking Crew suggested that sufficiently skilled musicians can have lasting impacts even with instruments more melodic than Chicago Pianos. Steve Mazzaro’s score often relies on long tones contrasting with the pounding heart and lung beats, turning into persuasive percussion. In the claustrophobic corridors and crowded buses, one feels something tight and tense.

Blake Lively is the focus of the film, but along with Jude Law and Sterling K Brown, all three become assets looking to handle each other differently. It’s less the search for a McGuffin than a gentleman, although he too travels to Scotland less than 39 stops in his search for the hidden figure of the U17s. As with the Bond films, there is a messy interplay between alphanumeric agencies and three-letter agencies. Not just one and two, but he and she. Tenet suggested you could turn an entire movie into a cipher, a puzzle that required a key. The rhythm section is more like a music box, when opened it spins and goes through the motions of a dance, but for all its variations it’s a melody you’ve heard before.

Reviewed on: Apr 02, 2022

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