Director: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts
Rating: Spectacular F. I wish I could give it a grade lower than an ‘F.’ A ‘Z’ maybe?
Initial Thoughts: I knew this movie was going to be absolutely terrible, and yet I was still surprised at just what a poor effort this was all around.
Thank goodness this is a blog and not a podcast because there’s no way I could trust myself not to underscore this entire review with a chorus of heavy sighs. I knew what I was getting myself into when I sat down to watch this movie. I didn’t have any expectations that this was going to be any good. And still I was completely astounded at just how terrible this viewing experience turned out to be.
I’m not a Jennifer Lawrence fan by nature. I enjoyed her well enough in ‘The Hunger Games,’ and I think she has some really beautiful moments in ‘Mother!’ But overall, I’m unimpressed with the bulk of her work, and her public persona seems a bit disingenuous—I can’t quite put my finger on what exactly rubs me the wrong way, but I suspect it’s something to do with her forced-aloofness? Or something about the way she never seems to take anything too seriously? No sense of reverence. Just extreme casualness that I find personally frustrating.
It’s fair to say that I am hella biased. There was probably no way I was going to be 100% objective in forming an opinion about this movie. How could I though, after watching her interview on the late night talk show circuit in which Lawrence advises “anyone with a blog to just skip this movie”?! Homegirl knew this movie was bad. And the blame isn’t even solely hers.
[Sidenote: Did JLaw only take this movie because she’d worked with Francis Lawrence on ‘The Hunger Games’? Or did she sign a studio contract, and this was the turd she signed on for so as to finish out the contract? JLAW, Y U DO DIS?]
If ‘Red Sparrow’ didn’t come across your radar, here’s the skinny, via IMDb:
Ballerina Dominika Egorova is recruited to ‘Sparrow School,’ a Russian intelligence service where she is forced to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission, targeting a C.I.A. agent, threatens to unravel the security of both nations.
Please pause for heavy-sigh intermission. Okay. Ready? Let’s continue.
This movie should’ve been right up my alley. I love anything concerning Russian Ballerinas and/or spies. Even just as a campy, silly running-commentary with BP sort of watch, I found myself just continuously rolling my eyes, and I’m pretty sure there were a solid 15 minutes I just completely checked out of around the third act.
But it’s the critic’s conceit to only criticize, and I’d be doing a real disservice to not mention any highlights, however small.
- Charlotte Rampling excels in the role of ‘Matron’ and slips comfortably into attitudes of restrained sadism and patriotism.
- The horror/gore that accompanies a spy-thriller was tasteful and tight in the sense that I only winced a few times but did not look away.
That’s all I’ve got. While others commended Lawrence’s accent (and criticized the lack of effort from the supporting cast), one can’t help but wonder if Lawrence used only Natasha of ‘Rocky and Bullwinkle’ fame as her source material. I had really hoped, watching the trailer, that Lawrence would be able to drop the accent and appear American, but no dice! FOR TWO HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES (WHICH IS ONLY NINE MINUTES SHORTER THAN ‘AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR,’ WHICH ARGUABLY HAS WAY MORE SOURCE MATERIAL TO DRAW FROM) WE HAD TO ENDURE THAT SUPER TERRIBLE ACCENT, AND I AM QUITE CROSS ABOUT IT!!
Another note about the run time, both of this movie and similar ilk: ninety minutes is exactly how long you should shoot for… ‘Red Sparrow’ was ripe for trimming. Get in, tell your story, get out. I’m glad I rented this at home so that I could pause it and wander off and take a break from this silly plot.
Though this movie was definitely advertised in the vein of ‘Atomic Blonde,’ it lacked the sensuality, the tantalizing presentation, a character presented without the consideration of the male gaze. However, I do not mean to say that ‘Red Sparrow’ was a formidable foil. For a story line dependent on seduction, this is a decidedly unsexy film. It doesn’t feel intentional though! It’s not a stark contrast, and though it feels as if we’re expected, as an audience, to feel a sense of provocation at the nudity (especially as it pertains to violence within the story). It’s a ham-fisted message that this Sparrow School exists solely to train spies whose only specialties are sex and intimacy. Though there are shots of the Sparrows engaging in other training, the emphasis is placed upon their ability to get naked and have sex with strangers, each other, people they find morally repugnant, etc. It’s all incredibly boring, when it should be shocking. Except that it’s definitely not. It’s just boring.
…Which is a great way to describe the chemistry between the two leads, Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton. I have mixed feelings about Edgerton’s body of work. When he’s on, he does a really magnificent job. But when he’s off, it’s not even a spectacular dumpster fire. His performances are instantly forgettable instead. Such is the case in his portrayal of Nate Nash. I can’t help but wonder if he was the lead they had originally intended. He and Lawrence have zero chemistry. And that’s especially problematic because Lawrence’s character Dominika Egorova is supposed to be an early graduate of Sparrow School which she calls “Whore School” because she’s deemed ready; yet her seduction technique boils down to suddenly, out of no-where, appearing at all the places Nash frequents and then deny deny deny that she’s following him. She’s a terrible spy, as evident by the fact that she does nothing to even conceal that she’s Sparrow (an entity well known by Nash and his government). That should be the first rule of Sparrow School right? That you don’t let anyone know you’re a Sparrow?
I completely zoned out around the third act. There was some definite sloppiness as Dominika flips sides every other scene as it fits the shoddy plot, and at one point, I was unsure of what resolution we’d be reaching at the end. The big reveal of a mole/double-agent was more of a “hmm” and not a “WHAT?!?!”
Final Thoughts: ‘Red Sparrow’ tries for grit and falls flat. It’s unsexy but not even the campy way of cult disaster ‘Showgirls.’ I can only recommend this for the list of movies you might watch with a few libations at the ready and a few movie-loving pals who enjoy MST3K-style shenanigans.