“Red Sparrow” is directed by Francis Lawrence and it stars Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian ballerina whose career ending injury leaves her without a way to pay to support her ailing mother. She’s then approached by Russian intelligence to be a spy for them in exchange for her mother’s medical care and this includes attending a school that specifically teaches how to use sexual desires and seduction as a means to extract information. Lawrence soon ends up in a tangled web of espionage and secrets as she gets involved with a CIA operative played by Joel Edgerton and what follows is a series of typical spy tropes.
Jennifer Lawrence is a talented actress for sure, but her performance in this movie is a mixed bag. On the positive side of things, she does a good job in playing a new spy who’s obviously in over her head. Her reactions to the things around her and the situatuons that she’s put through are all there and genuine, but on the negative side, she has a very bad Russian accent. Sometimes it sounds like a failed impression of a Russian, but then there are times when her accent doesn’t sound Russian at all. If anything, it sounds Irish in some scenes and it was very jarring. And unfortunately, the bad accents apply to virtually every actor who’s suppose to be playing a Russian, including Charlotte Rampling and Matthias Schoenaerts.
In terms of it being a spy movie, it was not only generic, but also downright confusing to watch. There’s expected to be some type of twist involving a double agent of sorts, but this movie has multiple characters who don’t even know what side they’re on. What first seems to be a matter of “Hey, I’m a double agent, but also a triple-agent” simply descends into the movie not even having any commitment to its characters. The characters aren’t sure of what side they’re on and it’s not because they’re conflicted, fleshed out humans who have moral obligations, but it’s because the movie just doesn’t have a solid script and it doesn’t develop any motivations whatsoever.
I also have to say that this movie just feels like straight up torture porn in some scenes, almost like the director was getting off on showing these graphic, disturbing sequences. That’s weird to say seeing as how I thought that I’d be saying that about Eli Roth’s “Death Wish” this weekend, but as it turns out, this movie is the more gratuitous and nonsensically graphic of the two.
To talk positively, this movie does have a nice visual look to it. It’s filmed on location and you get the cold, bleak vibe that one might usually associate with Russia. I’m sure that not all of this movie, if any of it was actually filmed in Russia, but you could very well be filmed into thinking as much. There’s depressing shots of the Russian landscape and it’s one of the more appealing parts of the film.
In the end, “Red Sparrow” is a generic spy thriller with an OK performance from Lawrence and a good visual appeal, but the story is muddled, the graphic nature is overdone and indulgent, and it’s also a bore. This is essentially a more depressing, realistic version of last year’s “Atomic Blonde”, though if there’s one thing that these two movies have in common, it’s that I don’t recommend seeing them.