The Rhythm Section, long delayed due to an injury Lively sustained on set, follows Stephanie Patrick, an ordinary British woman who loses her family in a tragic accident and sets out to avenge her loved ones’ deaths by killing the killers.
In a review for Forbes, Scott Mendelson notes that Lively delivers a “terrific lead performance” in the Reed Morano-directed thriller.
“Lively is terrific as an utterly destroyed young woman slowly bringing herself to take revenge for the deaths of her family three years prior,” Mendelson writes, but goes on to say the overall film does not succeed as the “worldwide international espionage actioner” it pitches itself as. “The mood is far closer to Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy than Skyfall.”
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Eon, the production company behind Bond movies, adapted The Rhythm Section from a Mark Burnell novel published in 1999 and as such, it is “a thriller from a different era,” reviewer James Dyer wrote in Empire.
“Lively’s steely heroine and a propulsive plot ensure you’re never bored, but this is a generic thriller from a simpler time, bulked up by a single strong performance,” Dyer says.
Variety calls the film a “dark, broody and unexpectedly human payback thriller,” going on to praise Lively much in the same vein as other reviews — “This isn’t an easy role, but Lively aces it.”
The review continues, noting that the film is “set apart” from similar thrillers by the humanity of Lively’s character: “She’s not a natural. She freezes up, and can’t do what she was trained for… In the end, it’s luck, not skill that keeps her alive. That’s how most of us would be in her situation.”
At the New York City premiere of the film, Lively joked that her daughter would be “terrified” if she knew what her character did in the movie.
“Can you imagine if my daughter knew what I went through in this movie? I mean, they would be terrified!” the actress told PEOPLE. “She’d either be terrified for me or of me, neither of which is something that I want her to feel.”
The Rhythm Section is in theaters Jan. 31.