Francis Lawrence (director)
20th Century Fox (studio)
01 March 2018 (released)
05 March 2018
Jennifer Lawrence seems to be distancing herself from The Hunger Games, the young adult franchise which made her famous, with her latest films; the psychological horror Mother! and now the violent and sexually explicit Red Sparrow.
She plays Dominika, a ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet whose career is shattered following a leg injury. Likely to lose her home and her sick mum's healthcare, which was funded by the ballet company, she agrees to take on an assignment given to her by her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), who works for Russia's intelligence service.
She must seduce a man and extract information from him, but the mission doesn't go to plan and she witnesses something she shouldn't. As a result, her uncle sends her to a special school used to create Sparrows, operatives who use the art of seduction to complete their missions.
After months with the school, she is tasked with befriending CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) and finding out who his mole is. However, the pair become close and form an alliance and Dominika's ever-switching allegiances poses a threat to them both.
Those expecting an action-packed spy movie along the lines of Atomic Blonde will be greatly disappointed as it is a slow-burning dialogue-driven piece, and slightly too long, coming in at 139 minutes.
It is not for the faint-hearted or easily offended thanks to its adult content, which includes full-frontal nudity, sexual violence, and gruesome torture scenes that are enough to make the toughest person squirm.
Lawrence puts in an impressive performance; one that requires physical strength, ballerina skills, a Russian accent, and the bravery to go nude, not to mention a complex character who is impossible to read.
Dominika appears emotional and vulnerable on the outside, knowing she will be killed if she doesn't carry out the job, yet she is more in control than you think and one step ahead of everybody.
However, her Russian accent is rather jarring and not totally consistent. It also seems odd for Lawrence to be doing one when some co-stars, such as Jeremy Irons, don't.
There is a good supporting cast too - Edgerton is reliably decent, Schoenaerts is suitably creepy, while Mary-Louise Parker, Charlotte Rampling, and Joely Richardson do a lot with the small roles they are given.
Every character is quite ambiguous, so audiences don't know who is deceiving who, and that means you don't care about anybody or feel invested in the outcome, which is a shame because the resolution is surprising and interesting.
Fans of the spy genre will probably enjoy Red Sparrow, with its endless deceptions and double-crossing, but those looking for a straight-forward, entertaining movie should look elsewhere because this is difficult to follow.