The Rhythm Section

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
The Rhythm Section Movie Poster Image
Impressive cast can't save dark, violent thriller.
  • R
  • 2020
  • 109 minutes

Parents say

age 18+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Not filled with positive messages, but it does show a substance-abuse addict getting clean and working toward a purpose. Also shows how revenge doesn't heal.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Stephanie Patrick isn't a traditional role model, but she does allow B to help train her back to health, hone her fitness skills, teach her espionage/assassin skills. B is also difficult to call a role model, but he helps Stephanie instead of killing her and shows remorse for killing innocent civilians along with intended targets.


Frequent violence, including references to airplane that blew up midflight and turned out to be the target of a terrorist's bomb. Close-ups of characters shot dead. Hand-to-hand fights in which a man and a woman punch, kick, stab, choke, wrestle each other. People are shot, stabbed, blown up, crashed into, poisoned. One character tries but fails to slit someone's throat (she wounds him but doesn't kill). A character's car blows up, killing three innocent people. Several chase scenes in which villains are shooting at main character, trying to run her off the road.


Stephanie is a sex worker at start of movie, is shown meeting a customer in a bedroom in a brothel where laughter, moaning are heard. She takes off her underwear but keeps her long T-shirt on, throws condom on bed before customer reveals he just wants to talk. Some fight scenes between Stephanie and B are almost sexually charged. Stephanie seduces a man, but contact shown between them is limited to kissing passionately against a wall.


Frequent use of "f--k," "f--king," "f--ker," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," plus "Christ" and "oh God" as exclamations.


Mercedes sedan.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Stephanie is an addict, is shown staring at, smoking heroin. She has visible track marks and bruises (either from intravenous use or from abuse). Adults drink occasionally. Stephanie buys more drugs, then claims she's not an addict but goes through withdrawal. Stephanie and other adults smoke cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Rhythm Section is an international thriller about Stephanie Patrick (Blake Lively), a brilliant but grieving woman who's willing to transform into an assassin to avenge her family's deaths. Based on author Mark Burnell's spy series, the movie -- which has been marketed as a female Bourne Identity or an English Girl with the Dragon Tattoo -- is very violent. Expect everything from tense car chases and up-close-and-personal fistfights and brawls (sometimes to the death) to assassinations via gunshot, explosions, and stabbings. The language is also quite strong: "F--k" is used especially frequently. Stephanie also struggles with drug use and starts out as a sex worker. That said, while sex is implied, the movie's only actual love scene is limited to passionate kissing. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJohn Constatine April 25, 2020

nope, not my taste

not recomended to family or any child about this movie. im very dispointed me and my dad watch this. :(
Teen, 13 years old Written byReviwed February 12, 2021

It’s pretty boring

It’s was boring and didn’t have to much violence and the begging isint that bad how common says it is

What's the story?

At the beginning of THE RHYTHM SECTION, drug-addicted London sex worker Stephanie (Blake Lively) meets her latest client in a low-rent brothel, only to discover that he's an investigative reporter tracking down survivors of the plane crash that killed her entire immediate family. The reporter, Proctor (Raza Jaffrey), convinces Stephanie that the fatal crash wasn't an accident but rather a coordinated terrorist attack kept secret by international intelligence communities. Proctor tells Stephanie about his secret source, "B," former MI6. After tragedy strikes again, Stephanie tracks down the mysterious B (Jude Law), who eventually agrees to train Stephanie to become a spy assassin who can follow the evidence to the terrorists responsible for so many deaths and avenge her family.

Is it any good?

Despite the talented cast and the author's own screenplay, this adaptation of Mark Burnell's spy thriller is sure to leave audiences thinking "the book was better." Lively's Stephanie -- looking rough, with the pallid skin, track marks, and bruises consistent with the violence of sex work and addiction -- is supposedly a brilliant former Oxford student who just missed the flight on which her parents and siblings died. Although the initial self-destruction makes some sense, Stephanie's transformation into a skilled sniper, assassin, and intelligence operative appears to happen unrealistically quickly (although apparently months have passed).

Lively and Law have decent chemistry as the enigmatic former-spy-turned-teacher and his tortured student, and an early chase sequence is promising, but most of The Rhythm Section is just passable and derivative. There's nothing particularly original about a post-9/11 Islamic terrorist plot (even in 2011, when the source book debuted, it had been done over and over again), and the plot takes a few overly convenient turns, including a trip to New York City to eliminate a smarmy mogul with a penchant for prostitutes (a well-cast Max Casella). Spy thrillers are all somewhat familiar -- car chases, honeypot seductions, weapons shown once only to turn up again -- but this one is a particularly predictable letdown that falls far short of the Bourne/Salander comparisons.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in The Rhythm Section. How does realistic violence impact viewers differently than stylized violence?

  • Who, if anyone, is a role model in the movie? Do movies have to feature characters who are role models?

  • Why do you think so many movies choose to tell stories about revenge? What makes it a compelling theme?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love action dramas

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