Friday, March 2, 2018

Spare Yourself From 'Red Sparrow'

Red Sparrow is a thriller starring Jennifer Lawrence as a Russian ballerina who turns into a spy. How could that possibly go wrong? It sounds just ridiculous enough to be fun, with the added star power of a kick-ass JLaw. Instead, Red Sparrow is a slow slog that features nary a single pirouette-turned-kick-to-the head. In fact, Lawrence spends a depressing amount of screen time being sexually degraded, beaten up, or both.

Which isn't to say her Dominika doesn't have her strengths. She is, after all, able to overcome a devastating (and absolutely horrific) dancing injury in the span of a few months, though it is a career ender. The end of her prima ballerina life also means no more Bolshoi apartment or medical care for her ailing mother (Joely Richardson).

In swoops her lecherous uncle Vanya (!) (Matthias Schoenaerts), a Russian intelligence agent who offers to help her and her mother as long as Dominika offers herself up as bait in a sting operation against a government official. When things don't go as planned, and Dominika becomes an expendable witness, her uncle gives her a choice: death or whore school.

Actually, "whore school" is what Dominika dubs the spy program she's recruited into, although its students are officially known as "Sparrows." They're all good looking young Russians--both male and female--who are taught to use their sexual attractiveness and wiles to get what they need out of the enemy. In Domininka's case, that enemy is CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), who is working with a Russian mole her uncle wants to uncover.

Charlotte Rampling plays the icy head mistress of this school of espionage blow jobs, and she's one of a cast of several surprising veteran actors (Ciaran Hinds; Mary-Louise Parker; Jeremy Irons) who make an appearance, most appropriating unfortunate Boris and Natasha level accents.

Lawrence's isn't much better, though she gets the icy Russian blonde demeanor down pretty well, burying the natural effervescence she seems to exhibit when she's anywhere but on the big screen. This is the first film in which she's agreed to appear nude, and I suppose I can understand that decision, in a way. The nudity certainly isn't meant to titillate (though it no doubt will, for some), as it happens during a rape scene, a torture scene, and a scene where Dominika uses her body to intimidate a fellow Sparrow. It's nudity as the ultimate boner killer.

More perturbing is how often her character is beaten and tortured. Sparrows are taught to use their minds and their bodies, but not really how to fight, so the film isn't similar to something like Atomic Blonde, where the female spy gives just as well as she gets. 

But in watching it I realized, that isn't new territory for Jennifer Lawrence. Her break-out role in Winter's Bone includes a brutal beating scene, and her last film, mother!, featured even worse. Of course, she's not just walking through meadows in her big franchise roles either, but at least in The Hunger Games and X-Men, she's able to fight back.

Lawrence has said she's taking a bit of a break after this, and I hope when she comes back to the screen she departs from some of her previous choices, instead choosing a role that is clearly written for someone her age, not ten years older, doesn't include any punches to the face, and allows her to be the funny and naturally appealing woman that has been stifled in too many films.

1 comment:

  1. I caught a brief interview with Lawrence saying that she read the script for this movie and really wanted to do this movie. My question is: What script did she read? Because it certainly can't be for what I saw on screen. This film is awful. And based on her last films: She needs a new agent.