Recommendation: The storytelling and jumps in plot can’t outdo the compelling performance turned in by Blake Lively. 4.5/10.

IMDB Synopsis: A woman seeks revenge against those who orchestrated a plane crash that killed her family.

The Rhythm Section, the latest from director Reed Morano, sounds pretty great on paper: A broken woman, whose family has been tragically taken away, gets revenge, a la Taken… or thereabouts. Unfortunately, all the goodwill that the premise—along with stylized photography and solid lead performance—can’t overcome the inexplicable storytelling choices and uneven pacing.

The film opens on Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively), a broken woman who has lost everything, working in a brothel and addicted to heroin. From here begins a slapdash set of scenes that entail the following: Casually escapes her brothel, shacks up with a journalist, tracks down the terrorist responsible for killing her family (doesn’t kill him), gets journalist killed, flees to Scotland. Somehow, as quick and as manic as the plot moves forward, the film somehow drags, losing its momentum before it’s even started.

In Scotland, she meets/is kidnapped by B (Jude Law) and ex-MI6 agent who trains her in firearms, hand-to-hand, and survival tactics. In just a few short months, Stephanie is ready to tear her way through Europe to take down a terrorist that has evaded MI6 and the CIA. A bit implausible, to say the least.

The second half of the film works a little better as an action-centric showcase for Blake Lively. Morano’s camera shines, portraying brutal, intimate fight and action sequences as Stephanie inches her way closer to the terrorist responsible for her family’s demise. Blake Lively shines physically, showing a prowess needed for the role while still allowing her vulnerability to peek through.

While the second act is certainly a showcase for her, the film’s storytelling choices continue to drag down the performance. Oftentimes head-scratching and at some points completely mind-boggling, The Rhythm Section’s boring or bad parts—of which there are many—overshadow anything great in the film. Add in the over-serious tone of a revenge thriller, and you’re left with a shell of a movie that honestly would have worked great as a short film or extended music video.

Ultimately, the film ends predictably and there’s some future franchise possibility left open at the end. And honestly, it wouldn’t be the worst thing, to have more of this Blake-Lively-hitman extended universe. Morano’s gritty, in-your-face shooting style is really compelling, but let’s hope the storytelling kinks have been worked out for the sequel.

MVP: The movie would be a train wreck without Blake Lively’s physical and haunted performance.

Highlights: The aforementioned fight sequences. The photography under Moran’s direction. Always great to see Jude Law.

Directors: Reed Morano

Studio: Paramount // Original release date: January 31, 2020