Movie Reviews

Red Sparrow – A Hot Mess

Jennifer Lawrence in a spy film?

Synopsis: Dominika Egorova is many things. A devoted daughter determined to protect her mother at all costs. A prima ballerina whose ferocity has pushed her body and mind to the absolute limit. A master of seductive and manipulative combat. When she suffers a career-ending injury, Dominika and her mother are facing a bleak and uncertain future. That is why she finds herself manipulated into becoming the newest recruit for Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people like her to use their bodies and minds as weapons. Dominika must now reconcile the person she was with the power she now commands, with her own life and everyone she cares about at risk, including an American CIA agent who tries to convince her he is the only person she can trust. (20th Century Fox)

Starring: Jennifer LawrenceJoel Edgerton, and Matthias Schoenaerts

Writer: Justin Haythe

Director: Francis Lawrence

Rating: 18A (Canada)/R (United States)

Running Time: 139mins

Trailer: 

For showtimes and more, check out Red Sparrow on movietimes.com.

Because when you think of spy thrillers, you think of Jennifer Lawrence. Here she plays a former Russian ballerina named Dominika Egorova. After a career-ending injury left her unable to support her ailing mother Nina (Joely Richardson), she joins a spy school to become a sparrow, a special type of spy trained in the use of sex as a weapon.

Dominika was definitely put through the ringer as she learned the ropes of the dark trade. This will surely be too much for some viewers as Dominika was expected to participate in several dehumanizing tasks. Despite opposing to many of these tasks, Dominika’s superiors saw promise in her so she was tasked to put the skills she learned to use while dealing with a CIA agent named Nate Nash (Edgerton) who was working on a case of his own involving an asset within Moscow. Her task was to get close to Nash so she can learn the identity of his asset. 

Dominika was not a very good agent as Nash was able to spot Dominika right away or maybe this was intentional, it was very difficult to get a gauge on where she or the story stood throughout the film. There was so much going on here, including a few too many twists, making it dizzying to follow. While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with twists, the problem with these were that their impact was squandered by the convoluted story.

One would probably expect Dominika and Nash to spend a considerable amount of time together but it kept finding excuses to keep them apart. While Dominika was supposed to be off on her mission, Nash tried to convince his superiors to recruit her onto his side for some unknown reason. It was never clear whose side Dominika was on as she was in the middle of two different factions but it was difficult to care about her as a character, mostly because the film’s depiction of these sides and her inner conflict were so poorly developed. Nash was also difficult to care about since his story ultimately didn’t matter as his purpose was solely as a means to an end for whatever Dominika’s plan was. Once it was revealed, it was yet another thing that didn’t quite land.

The film didn’t have to be as long as it was, clocking in at nearly 2.5 hours. The story could have been much tighter. The edgy sexual material in which the film started off with helped to set this apart from other spy films had not effect on the rest of the story and simply disappeared. While it may be beautiful to look at, it did little to distract from the pedestrian spy story and mediocre dialog.

Despite the questionable accents, the acting was decent all around as all the actors did their best with what they had. Lawrence showed plenty moments of vulnerability and power but never felt right in the role and was unlikable throughout but that was probably due more to the writing than anything else. Edgerton was okay though wasn’t asked to do much. Neither he nor Lawrence had any chemistry whatsoever which sank the film at times. Schoenaerts was menacing as Dominika’s uncle Vanya. Charlotte Rampling and Jeremy Irons both made an impression in minor roles.

Overall, this was a overlong, overstuffed, messy thriller whose good looks do not quite distract from its pedestrian story and mediocre dialog. The film had an interesting concept but it failed to keep up with it. Its gratuitous use of sex and violence make it so it’s not for kids and its sub par execution make it so it’s only for diehard spy film fans and/or Lawrence/Edgerton fans.

Score: 5/10

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