Review: ‘Red Sparrow’ is an Insipid Action Film

Jennifer Lawrence has proven to be both an acclaimed actress — in films such as Winters Bone (2010) and Joy (2015) — and a movie star in movies like ‘The Hunger Games’. That she took a role as a sexy Russian spy in Red Sparrow should come as no surprise, or that she excels in the role though the film is weak.

Dominika (Lawrence) is a star of the Russian ballet, whose career is ruined when a gruesome on stage accident impacts her ability to dance. She is sent to something called Sparrow School, by her uncle, a high ranking sleaze ball official in the Russian intelligence community. The school trains young women in the art of seduction, as well as murder, in the hopes they can lure men to their bedrooms, extract secrets and if necessary, terminate them. Told “your bodies belong to the state” on wonders why she would agree to go, in fact I asked that question many times, until it became clear it did not matter, no one was going to answer. Realizing she is trapped in a massive government operation, Dominika slips into survivor mode, willing to do anything to survive, knowing she is watched at all times, knowing her life is in constant danger.

Forced into an assignment, Dominika is to meet an American CIA operative, Nate (Joel Edgerton), seduce him and find out what he knows, try to find the identity of the mole within the organization.

Though Lawrence and Edgerton have genuine chemistry, the screenplay fails them on every level, never rising above an average spy thriller, the like of which we have seen before. Lawrence handles the Russian accent well enough, and gives a decent performance as the young woman trapped in an impossible world, while Edgerton is as always reliable in the supporting role.

Mary Louise Parker gives the film a much needed shot of high voltage energy as an American traitor, but is used far to little in the film to really the kind of impact her performance deserves.

The action sequences are fine, as directed by Francis Lawrence of The Hunger Games fame, and it all leads to a wildly implausible conclusion, just as we expect it will. There are gaping holes in the screenplay, from the reasons Dominika goes along with the Red Sparrow program, to the traitor carrying information of floppy discs in this age of high tech, to the incredible stupid move by Dominika that leads to a huge action sequence. It seems to exist to have the action sequence!

The Red (2013, 2015) films, with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Mary Louise Parker are wildly fun and entertaining while being filled with action, murder, and mayhem. It is a spy thriller, two of them without going by the rules of the genre, they choose to have fun with it. There is no sense of fun in Red Sparrow, the actors choose to take it all far too deadly serious to make the film any fun at all. If it were not for Lawrence, who is at least always interesting to watch as an actress, I would have nodded off.

Will you be entertained? I suppose. But it felt like a horrible waste of great talent in a film that is so obviously beneath them. I do not mean that to come off sounding like a snob, but the entire film felt akin to Jack Nicholson featured in a Muppet Movie.

Rating: 2/5