The Rhythm Section review: Blake Lively’s reluctant female assassin story is weirdly relatable

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Blake Lively’s new film, The Rhythm Section, will pique the interest of any Killing Eve fan. But is this film about a reluctant female assassin worth watching?

It’s 2020, and we’re all obsessed with female assassins.

Breaking away from Hollywood’s trope of a woman wearing heels and a figure-hugging catsuit while effortlessly kicking ass, we’ve started to be introduced to murderous characters with much more nuanced and – dare I say – almost relatable personal stories.

Killing Eve’s Villanelle is, of course, the most recent proof of this. And Carey Mulligan’s vengeful character in the upcoming Promising Young Woman film will be another killer example.

But what is it that’s got us hooked? Perhaps the fascination with women who kill runs parallel with the surging popularity in true crime stories. Or maybe this is just what happens when more women are finally allowed to write female characters in all their flawed warts-and-all realities.

That’s why everybody seems to be talking about Blake Lively’s new role in The Rhythm Section

Lively plays Stephanie Patrick, the reluctant assassin whose family’s murder drives her to kill. The once-happy Oxford student is now a drug addict and sex worker living an anonymous life in London’s shadows. 

That’s until an encounter with a journalist piques her quest for revenge. She enlists the help of an M16 agent called B (Jude Law) and soon travels around the world, chasing the people responsible for her family’s deaths.

But the fact that she has a problem with doing the actual killing part reminds us that one doesn’t just wake up and decide to take on the life of an assassin. 

Like Lively said on the red carpet at the film’s premiere: “There’s a femininity, humanity to Stephanie. There’s emotionality. You see her emotions in a way that you don’t often in movies like this where a man is at the centre.”

She then referred to a scene, adding: “I’ve never seen a man in a car chase screaming the entire time because he’s terrified. ”

Blake Lively stars as Stephanie in The Rhythm Section.
Blake Lively stars as Stephanie in The Rhythm Section.

That car chase, by the way, is one of the highlights of the film – it’s almost like you’re sitting in the passenger seat, holding on for dear life. Another heart-in-mouth moment involves Lively taking on a suicide bomber on a packed bus.

But away from the action scenes and considered development of Stephanie’s complex character, is the film any good?

The script, which was adapted by Mark Burnell from his own novel, pretty much ticks every gritty spy thriller cliché in the book. This includes some pretty cringeworthy one-liners, like the one about having “nothing to lose”. 

Lively’s performance is a far cry from anything she’s done before and she really does go for it. 

And although the story of following a global trail to track down targets is predictable, it does take us to some very cool filming locations.

Watch the trailer for The Rhythm Section

It’s a fine film to watch at the cinema if you enjoy a bit of action to warm you up on a cold February night. And Lively fans will be totally intrigued by her new direction here. But her reluctant assassin character is the only thing that feels fresh about a film that doesn’t really do much else to offer something new for the genre.

With the end scene suggesting a sequel, will Stephanie become a confident killer? It looks like we’ve got another female assassin obsession on our hands. 

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Images: Paramount

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Hollie Richardson

Hollie is a digital writer at Stylist.co.uk, mainly covering the daily news on women’s issues, politics, celebrities and entertainment. She also keeps an ear out for the best podcast episodes to share with readers. Oh, and don’t even get her started on Outlander…

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