by Cody Davis—
In the wake of the Mueller investigation and the #MeToo movement, a film about Russian intelligence operatives using their seduction skills to extract information from American targets had the potential to be an iconic production. However, the film adaptation of Jason Matthews’ novel of the same name produces too many creepy, cringe-worthy scenes to achieve such acclaim.
“Red Sparrow” follows ballerina Dominika Egorova (played by Jennifer Lawrence) after being forced into Russia intelligence’s “Sparrow” program, a group of operatives who manipulate their targets through seduction. Acting as a Sparrow in order to protect her mother, she quickly finds herself in the middle of an intelligence war between the United States and Russia, with little chance of surviving the operation. Egorova must choose her loyalties in order to save her mother’s life, if it’s not already too late.
In a botched attempt to recreate an acclaimed novel into an acclaimed film, Francis Lawrence and his team deliver an unnecessarily lengthy movie filled with over-the-top violence and sex. What could have been a huge influence in the #MeToo movement, the film’s reliance on such graphic, disturbing scenes leaves audiences little reason to believe “Red Sparrow” has a positive impact in the national discussion around sexual assault. In fact, it’s safe to say that “Red Sparrow” completely missed the mark on this subject.
The film’s intriguing storyline and impressive cinematography are overshadowed by its ambiguous introduction and controversial content. While the sexual and violent themes are no doubt central pieces to the story, these themes more or less dictate the entire movie, conveying the writing team’s apparent laziness. Opting to dial back on the sex and violence in favor of richer dialogue would have made for a much better movie-going experience.
Jennifer Lawrence is the film’s saving grace, delivering an excellent performance that carries the entire picture. Her accent, demeanor, appearance and mannerisms give an authentic interpretation of Matthews’ character, and prove she has matured from her cardboard-acting days of the “Hunger Games” franchise.
Anthony Lane of The New Yorker examines the production perfectly, calling its delivery “world-class clunkiness” and bringing attention to the director’s misuse of an excellent cast. It is disappointing to see a film with great potential turn out to be such a huge disappointment.