As stiff and obtuse as its title, "The Rhythm Section" is a spy thriller that forgot the thriller aspect. A loosely patched-together mishmash of action film cliches, it squanders strong lead performances in an aimless morass.
Blake Lively steps out of her comfort zone to take on the demanding lead role of Stephanie Patrick, a woman driven to vengeance after her family is slain in a plane crash. Under the guidance of retired secret agent Iain Boyd (Jude Law), she takes on the persona of a slain assassin to hunt down those who masterminded the crash.
Convincingly evolving from her "Gossip Girl" roots into a female Jason Bourne, Lively eschews the charm and beauty that she's rode to fame in favor of a raw, primal performance that shows depths she's hardly hinted at before.
Lively is the main thing keeping the slow-moving film, well, lively.
Also playing against type is Sterling K. Brown -- you'll know him as Randall from "This is Us" -- as a thick-skinned operative who exerts his influence on Stephanie on her winding labyrinth of a quest.
Director Reed Morano has a feel for gritty visuals, convincing stunts and thrilling fights, but struggles to put it all together to spin a cohesive story.
The movie plays out like a paint-by-numbers affair, arranging knife-fights, a car chase and fisticuffs haphazardly as Stephanie completes video game-like subquests until she works her way up to the final bosses. With so much action, it's surprising that the movie seems so droll and dull.
The lack of vigor is due mainly to the lack of fresh ideas. There's even a throwback training montage for Stephanie, complete with the typical face-off against her mentor.
The story telegraphs its grand reveal with such clumsy fragrance that it almost seems as though it's trying to intentionally mislead you. But alas, everything unfolds just as you'd expect.
Forget twists. This movie can hardly even bend.
The title relates to the body's circulatory flow, steadied by the pounding of your heart. The film's lack of ability to get your pulse pounding turns out to be its fatal flaw.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.