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Finally got around to watching this. When this film works best it's as a gritty, anti-James Bond thriller about the futility of revenge and the limits of violence.
But this film is an odd tonal mix though. At times it's a character study about grief and trauma, then a spy/mentor film, before becoming a Killing Eve-esque thriller.
The movie works best as a character study as Lively proves such a compelling performer. Her character's transformation from junkie prostitute to international assassin is about as unfeasible a notion as I've ever witnessed. However, Lively gives her performance with real humanity. It's because of her vulnerability that the transformation feels like something we can emotionally invest in. It's a really brilliant bit of acting in what is otherwise a pretty disposable thriller. There's not an inauthentic note in her performance and her scenes with Jude Law sizzle (he's just one of the hunks that turns up here).
It's the messy plot that's the problem. Soon after setting up the boilerplate 'revenge thriller' hook, Lively essentially becomes Villanelle and starts receving messages about new targets which feels more video game before encountering the big boss. Some of the twists that follow from it are improbable and the relationships she forms along the way are unlikely (especially one that takes root in the film’s final act). Also the film doesn't make good of its bad faith Islamic red-herring villain (an unwelcome trope).
The action is terrific and Lively fantastic in it. The fact she falters at essential moments is what keeps The Rhythm Section pulsating along. It's really crunchy and painful to watch and Reed Morano makes the very brave decision to often shoot in single takes (including one of the most adrenaline-fuelled car chases I've seen recently).
Her fighting style is ugly and flawed. She doesn’t win fights as much as she survives them. All this tension creates fraught energy where you believe the character could die at any moment, which adds convincing stakes to a genre that often paints its leads as invincible superheroes.
Overall, Blake Lively and Reed Morano have presented a slightly new take on the spy genre, where emotional pain and personal stakes take center stage instead of worldwide destruction and action hero one-liners. It’s a refreshing, admirable idea. However, the film drops its guard with nearly all the other fundamentals of plot and story. So, good intentioned but flawed.
I take this to mean that you're a fan?
I did like the Jude Law character a lot....though feel there was a lot of promise there that I'd wish they exploited. Perhaps they over ambitiously thought they would get sequels to explore his character. But I enjoy the notion that Law is a grizzled, MI6 operative that has been exiled and is attempting to get back into the fold. I also enjoyed immecenly his explanation of what 'the rhythm section'....I've seen some reviews be sniffy about it. But I thought it was cool.
Anyone else thinking that Jude Law's character was a sly nod to 007? After all, he is codenamed 'B' and he's an excommunicated MI6 agent. Kinda like a 'Luke Skywalker in Last Jedi' version of Bond.
Jude Law was always too much of a pretty boy for Bond....
Though in recent years, I could see him as M once Fiennes finishes with the role (which may be NTTD):