The Rhythm Section (2 stars)

The Rhythm Section

Blake Lively is a game presence in this otherwise sluggish spy thriller

From the watchable survivalist hokum of The Shallows to the camp bite of A Simple Favour, Blake Lively has been a suitably enlivening presence across a spread of genres. But even she can't do much to drag director Reed Morano's sluggish spy vehicle out of its doldrums. Drawing on Mark Burnell's novel, Morano gives Lively plenty of hairstyles to work with but not much else: with little in the way of character or excitement on offer, there's nothing going on under the wigs.

As the sombre prologue explains, the title refers to the kind of goofy zen-assassins' mantra Keanu Reeves's John Wick might approve of: 'Think of your heart as the drums, your breathing as the bass…' Mercifully, Burnell's galumphing script doesn't spend much time thinking about either. But nor does it think much about how best to flesh out the choppy growth curve of Stephanie Patrick (Lively), a student who becomes a prostitute after her family die in a plane crash, then turns trainee assassin when she hears the deaths were no accident.

Even before Lively shoots at him, a gruff Jude Law acts like someone forced to perform at gunpoint as the mentor who puts Steph through her assassin's paces. A few brisk country jogs and one practice scrap later, Steph is deemed fit to globe-trot from Tangier to Marseille in a bid to solve a mystery, with Sterling K Brown proving a crucial contact.

As numerous fights, car chases and bus explosions ensue, Lively enters the fray gamely. But Morano (The Handmaid's Tale) is not a natural action director, failing to muster the momentum or punch needed to turn flimsy trash into disreputable genre fun – and knowing that Bond veterans Michael G Wilson and Barbara Broccoli are amongst the film's producers only exacerbates the disappointment. Whatever its title may imply, The Rhythm Section falls several beats short of the tight-locked, well-paced thriller it might have been.

General release from Fri 31 Jan.

The Rhythm Section

  • 2 stars
  • 2019
  • UK
  • Directed by: Reed Morano
  • Cast: Blake Lively, Jude Law, Sterling K Brown

Stephanie (Lively) is a student who becomes a prostitute after her family dies in a plane crash, then becomes a trainee assassin when she learns it was no accident. The normally lively Lively isn’t given much character or excitement to work with, and although she gamely enters the fray it’s a sluggish piece of work.