The Rhythm Section follows a young woman who’s fallen into the cliché of drug addiction and prostitution after the death of her parents in a plane crash. The film opens with a bad ass Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively) aiming a gun at the back of a man’s head, superimposed with a title card, taking us 8 months into the past to explain how she got to that moment. This technique in storytelling is used often but doesn’t seem to play itself out, as we’re always taken aback by the moment we realize we’re back at where the film started us off. This film is a stylized artistic revenge drama with a European backdrop. We could have done without the anachronistic music on the soundtrack; it didn’t do anything to support the narrative and called too much attention to itself.
We meet Stephanie Patrick 8 months prior as a fragile, drug-addled prostitute who awaits her next client, sitting disheveled in bed. When the client walks in, we learn that his name is Keith Proctor (Raza Jeffrey), a journalist here to inform Stephanie that her parent’s death wasn’t an accident; it was intentional as a bomb was placed on the airplane, killing hundreds of passengers. Stephanie is struck in awe at the sight of polaroid images of all the deceased passengers plastered on the wall of Proctors apartment. Proctor calls attention to the man who manufactured the bomb and informs her that he attends the local college. Unbeknownst to Proctor, Stephanie goes to her regular drug dealer, a jeweler, but asks for a gun this time instead. Stephanie then travels to the Royal College and quickly tracks down the Middle-Eastern terrorist at a cafeteria table and removes the gun, aiming at him from under the table. They lock eyes. She gets the shakes and can’t pull the trigger while he gets the spooks and flees. Shortly thereafter, she returns to the apartment to find Proctor laying dead on the floor in a pool of his own blood from a gunshot wound.
Suddenly, Stephanie is kidnapped by Iain Boyd (Jude Law), an MI-6 agent who stepped down. He forewarns her of the consequences attached to her actions in terms of the pot of mess she’s stirred. After warning her of the disastrous road she’s about to encounter, he takes her to his hidden place in the green hilltops where she begins her training. A montage sequence of running hills, firearms practice, fighting, and car chases, Stephanie has brushed the surface in becoming a vigilante seeking vengeance for the death of her parents. Boyd is harsh with his tutelage, as he tells her to remove her clothes and swim across an ice-cold lake in the freezing winter. He informs her that her heart is like drums and her breathing is like bass, referring to what we learn is called the rhythm section.
After visiting the house of a victims’ parents to ask for funds in support of her quest for vengeance to take out those responsible, Stephanie offers the victims mother her ring that has the seat numbers of her own parents engraved inside. The symphonic score produced by Hans Zimmer and composed by Steve Mazzaro throughout the film is magnificent and utilizing operatic singing that supports the dramatic theme of vengeance throughout the picture. This is a pure revenge drama about a intelligent Oxford student turned heroin addicted prostitute then trained assassin who operates in disguise on her killing spree that spans from London to Madrid to New York City to Marseille. Stephanie crosses paths with Mark Serra (Sterling K. Brown) a former CIA operative who is now a negotiator for terrorist attacks. This particular character’s significant involvement in the story was baffling in terms of the intimacy he has with Stephanie that seemed bizarre and improbable. The film is directed with artistry and precision by veteran filmmaker Reed Morano (Meadowland), who likes to use the timeless montage technique and intentional jump cuts in her editing while using powerful music compositions to evoke a feeling of melancholy underneath the vengeful scenes of explosions, gunfire, hand-to-hand combat and a car chase scene that uses impressive windshield point-of-views throughout the roads of Europe. Blake Lively’s performance is multilayered with acute concentration and vigorous force resulting in a potent feat of acting where she gives one hundred percent dedication to her role.