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La même Nikita

Bernard Walsh/Paramount Pictures

The Rhythm Section (2020)

The Broccolis, whose Eon Productions holds film rights to Ian Fleming’s lucrative James Bond franchise, are probably keen on turning Mark Burnell’s Stephanie Patrick novels into their next cash cow, but “The Rhythm Section” plays out more like “La Femme Nikita” than “Dr. No.” Blake Lively channels Anne Parillaud as Stephanie Patrick, a junkie prostitute trained into a deadly assassin under the Tchéky Karyo-esque hard-bitten Jude Law. She then trots the globe to hunt in exotic locales replete with sand roads and teal walls and colorful parrots chirping for the terrorists responsible for murdering her entire family.

The international intrigue is riveting indeed, but "The Rhythm Section” pales in comparison with the three-decades-old “Nikita.” There is a scene in the Luc Besson film where Mr. Karyo’s Bob takes Ms. Parillaud’s Nikita out on a fancy date but unexpectedly thrusts her into a hit job. The sense of betrayal Nikita feels is as memorable as any of the film’s stylish action sequences. Unfortunately, Stephanie Patrick doesn’t undergo similar character development. She is never afforded the same vulnerability as Nikita by Mr. Burnell’s screenplay, Reed Morano’s direction or Ms. Lively’s one-note performance.

What ultimately separates a well-executed genre exercise from a great one is whether it has heart. “The Rhythm Section” runs smoothly enough so that viewers will be inclined to gloss over gaping plot holes and sketchy expositions. But no amount of soft-focus flashbacks to a happier time can substitute for an actual character arc.


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