Nothing like government-mandated sex and violence!
It’s Russian in the modern-day and Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is considered one of the best and perhaps most famous dancers in the country. However, an accident causes her to end her career and left with a bunch of pills to pay and a sick (Joely Richardson) mother to take care of. But her uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) thinks that he can help her fix this issue, by sending her off to spy school, where she’ll learn all of the violent tricks of the trade and hopefully, win the war on espionage between Mother Russia and the evil United States. And this is something that Dominika is all for, that is until she meets the U.S.’s spy (Joel Edgerton) and falls madly in love with him. Now, it’s a race to see whether or not the two can stay together, and each go against their own respective countries.
Believe it or not, Red Sparrow is set in the modern-day, but it probably didn’t need to be. There’s no real new state-of-the-art technology being used here, we hardly see any iPhones on people’s ears, and heck, half of the plot has to deal with top-secret information contained on floppy-discs. So yeah, in a way, Red Sparrow is like a throwback to the cold, twisty, and adult spy-thrillers of yesteryear, that still could have been set in those times and none would have been the wiser.
But looking at Red Sparrow as a throwback to the old days when the Cold War was constantly on everybody’s minds actually helps it in the long run; the general silliness, the twists, the turns, the over-the-top sex, violence, rape, torture, and cheesy Russian-accents, all actually work if you think of them being apart of a movie from the 80’s. These were the kinds of movies that were good and entertaining, yes, but ones that were also chewing up its cheesiness and nobody really had that much of a problem. Director Francis Lawrence clearly is aiming for that kind of look and feel and sort of comes close to achieving the style, but mostly, he falls back on it just being another typical thriller from the 21st century.
And what fun is that, really?
What I can say about Red Sparrow is that when it is over-the-top and silly, it’s quite fun and a lot different than what I am used to getting with big-budget studio pics in the same vein. The only issue is that the movie doesn’t always know how to keep up the momentum of playing it fast and freaky; most of the time is spent on a romantic-plot that goes nowhere and all of the weird espionage that feels like second-fiddle already. Lawrence himself seems to struggle with finding the right tone, even with his actors, like for when you have skilled thespians such as Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, and Mary-Louise Parker show up and play it loose, but others like Lawrence, Edgerton, and Schoenaerts be downright dark and serious, and it just never fully comes together.
And trust me, no one here is really all that bad – it’s just that they never come fully together to make something cohesive. Lawrence is fine in a fully grown-up role, even despite her accent floundering every so often, and Edgerton, try as he might, still comes off dull. We’re supposed to believe in them as some sort of romantic love-interests that want to take down their own countries, but really, it never rings true. The only real sparks found with Lawrence is whenever Schoenaerts is on the screen and he’s playing her uncle.
And hey, what goes on in Mother Russia, stays in Mother Russia, I guess?
Consensus: As a spy-thriller, Red Sparrow remains dark, serious and somewhat entertaining, even if it can never fully come down on a tone that makes sense of its cast, or its story.
5.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Twentieth Century Fox