Like Jennifer Lawrence? How about seeing her in a steamy spy thriller? And last thing. Are you OK at the repeated sight of her getting beaten and tortured on screen? If so, Red Sparrow has you covered.
But likely for a lot of audience members, this is going to be a wholly uncomfortable movie going experience. For me, this was probably one of the most grueling movie experiences I’ve suffered through in years. There’s one good thing about the film. It gave me a greater appreciation for Atomic Blonde. On initial viewing, I thought the Charlize Theron vehicle was trying too hard to just be a female James Bond with a tad more 80s drenched neon style. Compared to Red Sparrow, Atomic Blonde was a masterpiece.
And Kevin Feige and the rest of the Marvel Studios crew can rest easy in that Red Sparrow didn’t beat them to making a great Black Widow movie. If anything it’ll make fans appreciate any news of that film even more.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, an acclaimed ballerina. After a series of unfortunate events, her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) sends her to Sparrow School where she learns the intricacies of the espionage world. And using her body as a weapon.
Maybe not too shockingly, most of the emphasis of the film is the latter skill. Lawrence reunites with her Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence (no relation), but Red Sparrow lacks any of the charm or creativity of their previous hit franchise. Francis Lawrence seems more concerned with making his star a femme fatale.
Jennifer Lawrence is a great actress, but this is the first role where it seemed like she struggled with her grasp of the character — much like the Russian accent she occasionally misplaces.
Screenwriter Justin Haythe, adapting Jason Matthews’ novel, is likewise challenged connecting a separate subplot involving Joel Edgerton’s Nate Nash, a CIA agent trying to protect his Russian intelligence source. With Vanya’s superiors Zekharov (Ciaran Hinds) and General Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons, Justice League) desperate for intel, Dominika has to use all her resources to do whatever it takes to stay alive.
Edgerton is game, but his character is kind of an idiot. And the forced romance with Nash and Dominka further drags out the film’s seemingly endless 139 minutes. Fortunately, Irons has his Teflon wardrobe on and still comes off impressively cool.
The film won’t win any Oscars, but it should win a Most Oblivious Release Award. In the midst of the #MeToo movement, Red Sparrow’s repeated scenes of rape, attempted rape, sexual harassment, torture, murder and death scenes to female characters was uncomfortable and served no purpose.
Maybe I’m not progressive enough, but I don’t find the sight of a bloodied and bruised Jennifer Lawrence getting waterboarded and spitting out blood all that entertaining. Spy films typically go with much more implied violence, but Francis Lawrence takes more of a slasher film approach that doesn’t work.
In fairness, blood sprays and gore rarely work outside of horror or Tarantino films. Breaking away from the norm isn’t a bad thing, but he consistently places Dominika as the victim reacting to shoddy treatment instead of being empowered.
Matthews’ novel likely did a better job of laying the foundation for the ending. Haythe lays the final act out like a disastrous plan that abruptly snapped into place. Retracing the steps doesn’t make the developments any smoother and raises more questions that anyone would willingly endure all that punishment.
That doesn’t have to be the case if you’re considering Red Sparrow. Spare yourself the pain and let this sparrow fly on without you.
Rating: 1 out of 10
Photo Credit: Murray Close/Twentieth Century Fox