Blake Lively’s spy film lacks fresh beats

Blake Lively's spy film lacks fresh beats

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“The Rhythm Section” is a really strange title for a globetrotting spy thriller – it honestly sounds more like a sequel to “Whiplash” than a middling, convoluted secret agent pot-boiler – though most everything else about the fitfully intriguing Blake Lively action movie leans toward conventionality.

With screenwriter Mark Burnell adapting his own novel, “Rhythm Section” (★★ out of four; rated R; in theaters nationwide Friday) mines the familiar world of female assassins out for revenge that we’ve seen in “La Femme Nikita” and “Peppermint.” Lively pulls off one of her best movie roles so far – ranking up there with her surprisingly delicious shark flick “The Shallows” – and is surrounded by plenty of visual spectacle, yet is waylaid by a narrative that lacks excitement. Even the twists seem painfully ordinary.

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Blake Lively stars as a British woman out to avenge the loss of her family in the spy thriller "The Rhythm Section."

The movie does change up the spy genre by exploring a somewhat minimalistic side, at least at the start. There’s almost no dialogue as we’re introduced to Stephanie Patrick, a former top Oxford student and now heroin-addicted British prostitute who lost her entire family in a plane crash that she was supposed to be on, too. Director Reed Morano (an Emmy winner for “The Handmaid’s Tale”) silently shifts from Stephanie’s happy memories with her mom, dad and brother to her complete emotional shutdown after the tragedy.

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