Hot Take: With a talent like Jennifer Lawrence, this could have been better. It at least should have been sexier. Instead, it’s an average spy thriller with enough star power to at least keep you interested.
The release of Red Sparrow practically came out of nowhere. At least for me, it did. I don’t remember seeing the teaser trailer back in September and the official trailer didn’t air until January 8th which is pretty late for a March 2nd release date. You’d think with the re-teaming of Jennifer Lawrence and the director of 3 of the 4 films in The Hunger Games series, Francis Lawrence (no relation), Red Sparrow would at least have generated a bit more buzz. After seeing Red Sparrow, a spy thriller featuring Lawrence as a Russian ballerina turned spy who is sent to “whore school” to learn how to manipulate others as a Sparrow to get what information or whatever else is needed from the target, it makes more sense how this flew under the radar as what unfolds on screen is a rather average film with very little being memorable.
Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) suffers a career-ending injury which makes her no longer able to dance as a ballerina. Her uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) sees potential in her and gives her an assignment when she comes to him asking for help with her ill mother: Seduce a target of his Russian intelligence agency and replace his phone with a phone they can track. During the initiative, Dominika begins to get raped by the target only to have another operative (Sergej Onopko) strangle him to death on top of her. Knowing there should be no witnesses, Dominika fears she will be executed but her uncle propositions her to join the Russian intelligence agency and train as a Sparrow.
As the film progresses, we quickly learn of Dominika’s skills at figuring people out. Matron (Charlotte Rampling), the headmistress of the Sparrow School, attempts to break her a few times and fails while Dominika impresses with her skills. Matron isn’t sold that she’s capable of being loyal to the Russian agency, though, but General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons) also sees potential in her and chooses her to attempt to get the name of the mole working with the United States from CIA Operative Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton).
The convoluted story progresses well enough and there’s plenty interesting to keep the audience involved. For some reason, though, the film feels a little hollow and it’s hard to connect with any of the characters. Also, as a film filled with sex and sexuality, it’s not very sexy. While it likely wouldn’t have made for a better plot, a more sexually trashy thriller might have been more fun and it had the potential but chose a different route. If the route were a little more high brow, it would have been understandable. The end result, though, featured sex scenes that lacked any real substance or titillation.
Red Sparrow isn’t a terrible film. Honestly, it has too good of a cast to reach that level. The problem with it not being terrible is that it’s also not great and with a cast such as this and a solid director with decent source material, it feels like it should have been great. Don’t go in expecting greatness, though. Expect a mediocre thriller with decent acting and not much chemistry and you might have an acceptable 2 hours and 20 minutes at the theater.
Jennifer Lawrence, even in one of her weaker roles, is still a pleasure to watch on screen.
There are plenty of good spy thrillers you likely haven’t seen. This is just a spy thriller you haven’t seen.