Imagine learning that the plane crash that claimed your family wasn’t an accident but a covered-up terrorist attack. You would be angry and perhaps hungry for revenge but few would go to the lengths as “The Rhythm Section’s” Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) in her search for justice. “I’ll find the people who did this,” she says. “I’ll kill every last one of them.”
Like so many people touched by unimaginable tragedy Patrick turns to drugs and alcohol to blunt the simmering wellspring of emotion that always seems ready to bubble over. In the three years since her family perished in a plane crash she has been pushed to the edge, despondent, leading a life of survivor guilt—she was supposed to be on the plane—and rage. “I have nothing left,” she says.
When a journalist tells her the crash was actually a case of terrorism and not mechanical failure or an act of God she springs into action, morphing from down ‘n out to knock ‘em out; part La Femme Nikita, part Lisbeth Salander. “I’ve been dying for three years,” she says to one of her victims. “For you it will only be a few minutes.”
Revenge dramas should be snappy. They should bring the viewer into the story, give them a reason to care about the vengeance but most of all they should be satisfying. Each act of retribution should give our dark sides an electrifying jolt. Unfortunately, “The Rhythm Section” misses each and everyone of these beats. The boilerplate script combined with slack pacing and predictable twists and turns are prettied up with an indie movie sheen but there’s not much here beyond some hand held theatrics and exotic locations.
Lively throws vanity out the window, making the most of an underwritten character. Unlike many other movies in this genre, she isn’t an instant super-spy. She’s jittery, struggling with the job of revenge, which, if we cared about what was happening on screen, might have been a nice twist on the usual insta-spy genre.
For all its style “The Rhythm Section” feels like the victim of a ruthless paring down. The story is truncated without enough information to get invested in the characters. A glimpse or two of Stephanie’s life before the plane crash—the o-so-brief flashbacks don’t count—would have deepened our connection to her and her pain so later, when the going gets rough, we would still be paying attention.