A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
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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?
- In theaters: January 31, 2020
- On DVD or streaming: April 14, 2020
- Cast: Blake Lively, Sterling K. Brown, Jude Law
- Director: Reed Morano
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 109 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: violence, sexual content, language throughout, and some drug use
- Last updated: March 19, 2021
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