The Rhythm Section

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The Rhythm Section
The Rhythm Section poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byReed Morano
Produced by
Written byMark Burnell
Based onThe Rhythm Section
by Mark Burnell
Music bySteve Mazzaro
CinematographySean Bobbitt
Edited byJoan Sobel
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 31, 2020 (2020-01-31) (United States)
Running time
109 minutes
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Budget$50 million[1]
Box office$5.9 million[2]

The Rhythm Section is a 2020 action drama film directed by Reed Morano and written by Mark Burnell, based on Burnell's novel of the same name.[3] The film stars Blake Lively, Jude Law, and Sterling K. Brown, and follows a grieving woman who sets out for revenge after discovering the plane crash that killed her family was a terrorist attack.

The Rhythm Section was released in the United States on January 31, 2020, by Paramount Pictures. The film received negative reviews from critics and was a box-office bomb, having the worst wide opening weekend of all-time, the biggest drop in theaters, and is projected to lose the studio as much as $40 million.


Three years after her family's death in a plane crash, Stephanie Patrick works as a prostitute in London and is addicted to drugs. One day, she is approached at her brothel by a journalist, Keith Proctor, who tells her that the plane crash was not an accident, but was a terrorist attack covered up by the government.

Though she initially does not believe him, Stephanie visits his apartment, where she sees all of his research on the crash. He tells her that the plane crash was caused by a bomb made by a man named Reza, who attends university in London. Stephanie buys a gun and tracks Reza to the university cafeteria. She plans to kill him, but at the last second, she is unable to pull the trigger and Reza escapes. Hours later, Stephanie returns to Proctor's apartment, where she had been staying, and finds Proctor dead.

Through Proctor's notes, she discovers that his source for his research, B (an ex-MI6 agent), lives in a remote location in Scotland. She travels to Scotland to find B, who is disgusted with her quest to find and kill Reza. After she explains that she has nothing to lose, he reluctantly trains her to complete her quest. B, Iain Boyd, explains to her that Reza was hired by a radical terrorist, U-17, who downed the plane to kill liberal Muslim reformer Abdul Kaif. The rest of the plane crash was collateral damage. Stephanie is trained to assume the identity of an assassin, Petra Reuter, whom Boyd killed, but whose body was never found.

After months of extensive training, Boyd instructs her to go to Madrid to find Marc Serra, an information broker and ex-CIA agent. Stephanie visits Kaif's father Suleman and asks him to fund her mission, as he had been funding Proctor's research. Suleman refuses, accusing Proctor of taking his money and vanishing, and tells Stephanie to leave. Kaif's mother Alia overhears and offers to fund Stephanie. Stephanie accepts and leaves her father's wedding ring with Alia, promising to return for it.

Stephanie arrives in Madrid and makes contact with Serra, posing as Petra Reuter. Serra is skeptical but tells her that he needs Lehmans killed, a notorious gangster in Tangier, who arranged for the bomb to be on the flight. Boyd tells her to take the job, to prove herself as Petra Reuter. She travels to Tangier and finds Lehmans, who requires an oxygen mask to breathe. After a prolonged fight, Lehmans dies when separated for his breathing mask for too long. Stephanie is discovered by Lehmans' men, but escapes after a car chase.

Serra next tells Stephanie to kill businessman Leon Giler in New York. Boyd once again tells her to take the job, as Giler financed the bombing and U-17. Boyd goes with her to New York and provides her with a knockout gas inhaler, and a knife to slit his throat. Stephanie poses as a prostitute and seduces Giler, but is unable to kill him and leaves. As Giler leaves the hotel and gets into his car, Boyd detonates a remote bomb, killing Giler, along with his chauffeur and two young children.

Back at their New York hotel, Stephanie is horrified by the death of Giler's children. Though Boyd had only planned to kill Giler, he is unapologetic. He also reveals that he was released from MI6 after killing Petra, who killed his wife. The CIA disapproved of killing Petra, as she had intel on U-17; thus Boyd also feels responsible for the plane bomb. With this new information, Stephanie leaves Boyd, and returns to Madrid to be with Serra, with whom she begins a relationship.

Boyd warns her that U-17 hired Serra to find someone to eliminate Giler and is eliminating all ties to him, which leads Serra to suggest that Reza is U-17. Serra provides Stephanie information that Reza is in Marseilles. She discovers him with a female associate wearing a suicide vest, preparing for another bombing. Stephanie attempts to kill them, but they escape after a firefight. Following them onto a bus, she attacks Reza. Reza's associate attempts to trigger the bomb, but it does not detonate. The bus passengers evacuate while Stephanie fights and subdues Reza. Reza's associate realises the bomb is on a timer, and that Reza had not intended to sacrifice himself. She accuses him of being a coward and tells Stephanie to leave the bus before the bomb is detonated, killing Reza and the bomber.

Stephanie returns to Serra's house and reveals that she is not Petra Reuter. She kills him with a deadly venom, revealing that she has discovered that Serra is U-17, as Reza was too inconsequential to be the mastermind behind the bombing. Her revenge complete, she leaves his house and visits Kaif's mother Alia, telling her that the people behind her son's death have been killed. Alia thanks her and returns Stephanie's father's ring.

Some time later, Boyd attacks Stephanie in the street, pinning her against a wall. She asks if he is working for MI6 again, and he tells her that he will be allowed back if he kills "Petra". He releases her and tells her to disappear. As Stephanie walks away, a smile crosses her face.



On August 16, 2017, it was reported that Paramount Pictures had acquired the rights to the project.[4] It had a production budget of around $50 million, and was produced by EON Productions, the film company known for producing the James Bond films.[1]

Principal photography on the film began in December 2017 in Dublin, Ireland.[5] Production was halted temporarily after Lively was injured on the film set, with filming scheduled to begin again in June 2018.[6] Sterling K. Brown joined the cast, as production resumed in Spain in mid-2018.[7] In July 2018, filming took place in Almería with Law and Lively.[8][9]


The film was originally scheduled to be released on February 22, 2019, but was pushed back to November 22, 2019 following Lively's on-set injury, and later again to its ultimate release date, January 31, 2020.[10][11]


Box office[edit]

In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside Gretel & Hansel, and was originally projected to gross $9–12 million from 3,049 theaters in its opening weekend.[12] However, after making just $1.2 million on its first day (including $235,000 from Thursday night previews), projections were lowered to $3 million.[13] It went on to debut to $2.8 million, marking the worst opening weekend ever for a film playing in over 3,000 theaters.[14] It is estimated the film will lose the studio $30–40 million.[15] The film made $1 million in its second weekend, and then its third weekend made $25,602. It was pulled from 2,955 theaters (97.5%, 3,049 to 94), marking the largest third-weekend theater drop in history, beating The Darkest Minds's record of 2,679.[16]

Critical response[edit]

On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 27% based on 142 reviews, with an average rating of 4.65/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Blake Lively delivers an impressive lead performance, but The Rhythm Section plods predictably through a story that could have used some flashier riffs."[17] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 45 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews."[18] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C+" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported it received 2.5 out of 5 stars in their polling, with 35% of people saying they would definitely recommend it.[14]

Writing for Variety, Peter DeBruge stated that the main character, Stephanie – unlike the protagonists in Atomic Blonde, Red Sparrow and La Femme Nikita – displayed a "near-incompetence in the face of danger [that] makes her relatable in ways very few cinematic assassins have ever been."[19]


  1. ^ a b Galuppo, Mia; Kit, Borys (January 29, 2018). "Blake Lively Spy Thriller 'The Rhythm Section' Suspends Production (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  2. ^ "The Rhythm Section (2020)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  3. ^ "Reed Morano: Production break on 'The Rhythm Section' was a 'blessing in disguise' for Blake Lively thriller". Yahoo. Retrieved December 15, 2018.
  4. ^ Jr, Mike Fleming (August 16, 2017). "Paramount Lands Blake Lively Spy Thriller 'The Rhythm Section' By 007 Producers & IM Global". Deadline. Retrieved August 17, 2017.
  5. ^ Busch, Jenna (December 4, 2017). "The Rhythm Section: Blake Lively Injured on Set". Retrieved December 6, 2017.
  6. ^ Galuppo, Mia (December 4, 2017). "Blake Lively Injured on Set of 'The Rhythm Section'". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 31, 2017.
  7. ^ Kit, Borys (May 31, 2018). "Sterling K. Brown Joins Blake Lively ian 'Rhythm Section' as Spy Movie Resumes Production (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 31, 2018.
  8. ^ "El rodaje de 'The rhythm section' llegará a Almería a finales de junio". Europa Press (in Spanish). Almería. 21 February 2018. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  9. ^ EFE (7 November 2017). "Almería acogerá el rodaje de 'The Rhythm Section' con Jude Law y Blake Lively". Ideal (in Spanish). Almería: Corporación de Medios de Andalucía, S.A. Retrieved 3 July 2018.
  10. ^ Donnelly, Matt (January 25, 2019). "Blake Lively's Action-Thriller 'Rhythm Section' Moves to Thanksgiving (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2019.
  11. ^ McNary, Dave (August 24, 2019). "Blake Lively's 'Rhythm Section' Moved Back to 2020". Variety. Retrieved August 24, 2019.
  12. ^ Jeremy Fuster (January 28, 2020). "'The Rhythm Section' Arrives During Super Bowl Slump Weekend for Box Office". TheWrap. Retrieved January 29, 2020.
  13. ^ Dave McNary (January 31, 2020). "Box Office: Blake Lively's 'Rhythm Section' Opens Quietly With $235,000 on Thursday Night". Variety. Retrieved January 31, 2020.
  14. ^ a b Anthony D'Alessandro (February 2, 2020). "'Bad Boys For Life' Scores Over Super Bowl Weekend With $17M+; 'Rhythm Section' Is A Mess". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  15. ^ Anthony D'Alessandro (February 2, 2020). "What Went Wrong With 'The Rhythm Section'? Action Pic Could Lose $30M+". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  16. ^ "Biggest Theater Drops". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved February 18, 2020.
  17. ^ "The Rhythm Section (2020)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  18. ^ "The Rhythm Section Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved February 13, 2020.
  19. ^ ‘The Rhythm Section’: Film Review Peter DeBruge, Variety, January 29, 2020

External links[edit]