FILM UNFILTERED - Espionage flick ‘Red Sparrow’ fails to impress

FILM UNFILTERED - Espionage flick ‘Red Sparrow’ fails to impress


Last year, the very enjoyable, highly erotic, late ’80s set “Atomic Blonde” starring Charlize Theron brought the spy film into a new light with a strong, physical female lead. In the new movie “Red Sparrow,” Jennifer Lawrence, who shot to stardom as Katniss in the “Hunger Games” movies and has had a very fruitful career especially starring in David Russell films, tries her hand as a seductive spy.

Lawrence plays a talented ballet dancer in the Russian Bolshoi who upon suffering a mishap on stage is drafted into the service of the Soviet special services under the direction and “protection” of her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts).

After he shares some information with her regarding her injury, he ships her off to a secret, specialized, albeit abusive school where young men and women are turned into seductive, lethal tools who are to be agents of espionage in the service of the new Soviet republic.

Their training is part brainwashing, part foreplay. After establishing her superiority, prowess and skill at the school, she is soon sent into the field to Budapest where they want her to ensnare an American CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) who has a contact back in Russia they want information on. But she is secretly hoping to double cross her Soviet minders and escape to America so that her mother, Nina (Joely Richardson), who is ill, will have an opportunity to survive.

“Red Sparrow” had the potential and promise of being a great film, but it felt more like “Atomic Blonde” light.

Some of the spy craft and espionage felt too familiar and repeated, plus there were some double crosses that were easily predictable. It’s not necessarily on Lawrence’s shoulders as much as it was a convoluted storyline. Though the horribly obvious wig she wore also rested heavily upon her shoulders.

Too many beats felt slow and unimportant. Additionally, there’s far too many characters, spies, station chiefs or directors to keep track of and after two-plus hours your brain signals defeat. There were also a few scenes that might catch you off guard and not sit too well with some viewers. There’s some violence and sexuality that will certainly be uncomfortable to some.

Another troublesome annoyance throughout the film is how often some characters suddenly stop speaking in a Russian accent. This happened a few times with lead characters. Jeremy Irons may have been the worst offender as a general who for the most part spoke in his natural English accent. It was reminiscent of Sean Connery in “The Hunt for Red October.”

I look forward to this being rebooted in the not-too-near future with the Marvel Studios logo attached on the front of it, starring Scarlett Johansson and called “Black Widow.” Regardless of what was said prior to “Red Sparrow,” this film borrowed heavily from the established background of the redheaded Natasha Romanov. If there’s one thing you can be sure of after 18 films and under the tutelage of Kevin Feige, it will be a greater success and far more enjoyable than “Red Sparrow” was.

Rated R.

Jennifer Lawrence plays a talented ballet dancer in the Russian Bolshoi who is drafted into the service of the Soviet special services.