Film review: Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence reunites with Hunger Games director for less satisfying results.


Jennifer Lawrence has endured a few bad bounces lately, from Joy to Passengers to mother!, less a bad bounce than an open-faced windshield-crash. Much is being made of this less-than-stellar run, but let's keep some things in perspective: Lawrence's film career is just eight years old, she won a Best Actress Academy Award on her fifth movie, and she's still a couple years from 30. Meanwhile, a remake of Death Wish starring Bruce Fucking Willis is in theatres now. Leave Jennifer alone.

Red Sparrow is the kind of movie with such a dominant undercurrent of grim violence that you instantly know a rape is coming, and it does—accompanied by a very graphic murder—to Lawrence's Dominika, a former Bolshoi ballerina with no life prospects except the one offered by her sexy but shady uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), a Russian spy. This incident demonstrates to him, somehow, that she has the special skills to become a Sparrow, AKA a young spy who uses sex to get secrets. (Lawrence shows most of her body and is nearly raped again before the movie's halfway point. Grim, grim, grim.) Enter Joel Edgerton as a CIA agent who gets too close and provides the plot with a bunch of red herrings.

Although you can't really tell until Charlotte Rampling says the words "social media," Red Sparrow takes place now, but director Francis Lawrence (who made three of four Hunger Games) pitches it as a lost, less-fun Bond film from the Cold War era, all stark and grey. A drunk Mary-Louise Parker provides a brief and welcome pocket of levity before we're back to bloody torture. Lawrence does her best as always, but if you want to see a stylish spy movie that doesn't feel the need to repeatedly sexually assault its lead, rent Atomic Blonde instead.


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