In this Russian spy thriller, Jennifer Lawrence stars as Dominika Egorava, a ballet dancer turned spy. After a career-ending injury, she’s recruited by her weird uncle to train as an infamous red sparrow (a group said to have really existed). Then ensues two hours of Dominika trying to find the mole that’s been leaking Russian secrets to the CIA. And that’s just the beginning of this mess of a movie.
Tinged with dark themes such as the blatant abuse of power, Dominika battles with the dominating male powers around her. Does she do this in a female-empowering badass way? No, instead she uses sex or sexual favours to overcome the various situations she finds herself in. This slowly becomes infuriating. Using sex as a plot point in an attempt at making this a sexy spy thriller is elementary at best. To add to this, sexual assault is a prevalent theme in the first half of the movie, yet it is handled inconsiderately.
The exploitation of the female body is also a frequent tactic used yet Dominika is always devoid of emotions — there is no character development. No look into how these events that occur are affecting her mentally; no scene where Dominika has any sense of freedom. Instead, she’s controlled by the men around her. So yes, Lawrence may be the star of the show, but the men are still very much in power. It’s also useful to note that she dies her hair blonde at one point because what Russian spy doesn’t have blonde hair, right? But I digress.
The acting is great if a little boring mostly because there is no real character development across the board. Every character seems to be very thinly written with bad Russian accents. Honestly, there is more to it than a few rolling “R’s” here and there. There’s an effort to add some romance to the plot but even this is underwhelming with virtually no chemistry between Lawrence and Joel Edgerton (who plays CIA agent Nate Nash). The ‘romance’ is also unnecessary and feels rushed (even in a movie as long as this). Needless to say, there are some pacing issues and it’s no wonder six people walked out during the movie.
The plot itself is one that’s promising, even if slightly overused. And this may be one reason why it is extremely clichéd. Red Sparrow’s attempt at a plot twist (if you can call it that) was extremely predictable especially in this genre of film. Oh, she was a double agent this entire time. No wait, she’s a triple agent(!) Here’s an idea: just don’t make her an agent at all, literally do anything else for the entire movie — it sure would have been more entertaining.
Although a thriller, there’s no suspense nor any excitement. On top of that, there’s barely any action, so for those hoping to see Lawrence fighting off a bunch of people, prepare to be severely disappointed. All this paired with a very underwhelming final showdown, makes the movie more than a little bit dull.
Stylistically, the movie aims at being dark and sexy, but it lacks any real depth. It instead attempts to rely on the style and atmosphere as well as the many, many, torture scenes. In this sense, there seems to be an over-reliance on graphic violence. Some scenes feel like they are there just for the sake of them being violent which gets tedious after a while.
Red Sparrow looked promising but sadly this promise was not fulfilled. In its place is the bitter disappointment and a promise made to myself: never to watch a blonde-haired Russian spy movie again.
2/5 (and that’s me being generous)