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The Rhythm Section (Blu-ray Review)

I’ve  been digging what Blake Lively has been serving up for the most part the last few years. Highlights of such efforts include The Shallows and I absolutely LOVE A Simple Favor. I can’t say I know what she’s offered on a regular basis in terms of parts, but she seems to be carving a path out for herself with interesting parts and genres, showcasing an array of range and entertainment. It almost feels a bit Jake Gyllenhaal-like in a way. A sort of “I don’t care if everyone sees them or not, I just want interesting roles and interesting movies” kinda thing. Her latest comes from EON Productions (Famous for James Bond), and it was an absolute critical failure and box office disaster this past January. Those sort of things won’t keep me from seeing it and forming my own opinion, but are certainly cause for some hesitation going in. The Rhythm Section is scheduled to release from Paramount on Blu-ray April 28th, but as with what is going on in the world right now, that could easily push back a bit.

Film

Stephanie Patrick veers down a path of self-destruction after a tragic plane crash kills her family. When Stephanie discovers it wasn’t an accident, she turns to a former CIA operative who can help her find the culprits. But her quest to uncover the truth soon turns into a full-blown quest for revenge as Patrick decides to punish those responsible.

Sure, The Rhythm Section is not blasting with its originality or inventing the wheel, which I feel may have had some already reserved about it before it plays out. The female spy/hitman espionage action/drama has been commonplace since Luc Besson molded it into a repeatable fashion with La Femme Nikita back in 1990. A common woman, plucked from society turned trained assassin is an honest sandbox for a filmmaker to play in. Besson even recently has gone back as recently as last year with Anna. And we’ve seen high profile films like Atomic Blonde and Red Sparrow doing their thing as well. What it comes down to is how terrific your lead is, how fresh you make the action, and if you can plot out something with some good suspense along the way.

The Rhythm Section isn’t a perfect exercise or an all-timer in the genre, but it shows plenty of promise is a pretty rock solid one to put into the pool of femme fatale movies. Its biggest crime is that it may take a little too long to hold back some of what makes it special, but in the meantime you get to see Lively show off her chops and have fun with exchanges as she trains with Jude Law. They’ve given Lively some support in Law and also Sterling K. Brown, but it needed just maybe one more big one in the opening act before Law enters the picture to really pull of drawing in captivity. Law’s character even mentions “You are a cliche” early on, which is a bit of statement on the film itself, but also pointing out that you are going to still be and need to be yourself when its all over. And that’s an important factor in making one of these films over all.

Halfway through the film there is a bit of a raw fight sequence and its followed by a car chase. Its quite a unique chase that is a single take from the passenger’s seat of the car. Impressively, its not some found footage or shaky cam riddled cheapness to give a “You are there!” effect. Director Reed Morano goes much beyond that. Somehow, someway, she manages to give you a full sense of environment, players, action and direction within the entirety of the sequence. You are almost at the feeling that you are at the wheel and could make the decision’s along with Lively’s “Stephanie”. This chase alone is worth watching the movie for. I have not seen any of Morano’s television or film work prior to this, but I’m now looking to her as someone to watch going forward. Its not just this chase, but many other sequences that I quite enjoyed her perspective that made this stand out instead of being an also-ran or straight-to-video quality. And yes, I have seen (And LOVE Children of Men).

One part that can be a factor in these regular/downtrodden female turn contract killer movies, is how good the actor or character herself. I’ve already mentioned that Lively has a firm grip on this and you can see who she was, her struggle, her growth and carrying baggage with her from start to finish. One thing I do enjoy about how Reed Morano tells this tale is that it acknowledges how this wasn’t a life Stephanie wanted and that she was trained by one person and trained in a more accelerated process. It shows up in the fight sequences as Stephanie has hesitation, is a bit loose, not too confident and doesn’t quite have the mentality to smoothly improvise yet. She does have a sense of survival and is she IS able to succeed in key areas that we can recognize from her training.

I don’t want to oversell you on The Rhythm Section, but this one has an unfairly bad rap currently. Its simply a fine exercise in the femme fatale espionage drama with Blake Lively getting hers. It exhibits a nice display from her and good stuff with loads of future potential from director Reed Morano. Hopefully it will pick up somewhat of a cult following with the home video and streaming releases coming down the road here. Definitely see it for the car chase alone. There are some other goodies in there too, but that one is the thing that easily sold it as a nice 3-star picture for me.

Video

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: The Rhythm Section makes its debut on Blu-ray with a pretty handsome looking image overall. Its a crisp and sharp picture showcasing some finer details. Look no further than the patterns and textures on sweaters, hats and other fabrics seen in the movie and awe in their detail. There is a strong and precise color timing on the film that comes with good consistency and saturation in the picture. In the end, if this were to receive a 4K upgrade, I could only see the noticeable difference coming in the display of blacks and maybe just some small upticks in other areas. What we have hear is absolutely good enough and a job well done.

Depth: The film features some nice depth of field on both interiors and exteriors, showing some rather surprising and impressive scale for a lower budgeted movie like this. There is a decent pushback. Movements from characters and camera are smooth with no issues coming from jitter or blurring.

Black Levels: Blacks are pretty deep, notably lighter than the surrounding mattes, but do an admirable job of a standard Blu-ray attempting natural colors. There are some really darkened, shadowy areas as per the aesthetic, but information on patterns, hair and surfaces showcases good texture despite how dark something is. No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are very autumnal in their look and feel pretty rich overall with some nice saturation. Much of it is bold, normal (Brown, green, gray) colors, but there are some notable pops in clothing fabrics that come in, namely when Stephanie is training and has a blue hat and pink sweatpants.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are on the colder side of things and maintain a consistency from start to finish of the film. Facial features are pretty identifiable in most distances but close ups give a real sense of a clean texture of blemishes, freckles, moles, wrinkles, bruising and more with ease.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio

Format(s): English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD, English Audio Description, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, French 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English, SDH, Spanish, French

Dynamics: The Rhythm Section finds good accompaniment to the video with its 7.1 presentation. You get a nice feel for environments as well as the heat of the action with good accurate to screen mixing. Vocals are a little lower than the score and effects, but never does it truly feel super detrimental. The action really puts in you place and deliver with this home viewing room presentation.

Height: N/A

Low-Frequency Extension: The subwoofer gets what its supposed to happen done and gets it done with good effect. Explosions, crashes, gunshots, punches, glass smashing and engines flooring it all absolutely deliver.

Surround Sound Presentation: The mix here absolutely brings good accurate life to the events on screen utilizing all channels with good specific contributions. Ambiance work is also terrific, bringing some rooms to life that add another sense of anticipation and suspense to some of the stealthy sequences.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp. They are kinda low in the mix and with some of the more quieter scenes in the beginning, I needed a little more focus.

Extras

The Rhythm Section comes with the DVD version and a digital copy code.

Deleted And Extended Scenes (HD, 17:30) – 6 scenes.

Stephanies Journey (HD, 7:53) – A kind of generic look at the main character of the film where they give little insight, but moreso just cast and crew tell you things that happen in the movie.

Fight Or Flight (HD, 6:10) – An overview on the mentality and goal of the training Stephanie undergoes in the film. A desire to have it be more raw, not so confident and have it be a lot of one takes and unsuccessful at times.

Never Leave Second Gear (HD, 6:11) – Focuses on the really awesome, 1-take, car chase that takes place in the middle of the film. Gives you some details, on-location looks and goes best over how it was accomplished in a short amount of time.

One Shot Explosion (HD, 2:18) – Blake Lively gives her accont as this one goes over the bus explosion in the movie and how things went down.

Designing The Rhythm Section (HD, 2:38) – This takes a quick look at the locations and set design on the film.

Summary

While the reviews scoffed at it and the box office numbers were quite a significant bomb, The Rhythm Section is far better than those paper statistics will lead you. The Blu-ray features a terrific presentation both for the audio and video and it features some nice accompanying VAM that is a bit fluffy but is a nice lot of featurettes for a bombed film that usually barely even gets a menu screen. I’m not going to recommend you blind buy it, but at the right rental price or right time scrolling through on the streaming service options, check it out if you’re in the mood for some espionage action, contracted killer thriller kinda thing.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com) on the Creative Zombie Studios Network. At Why So Blu he is a Writer/Reviewer. Brandon is a lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash. You can also find older essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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