Movie Review: "Red Sparrow" Is Degrading, Insipid And Painfully Boring (And Those Are The Good Parts)


RED SPARROW
Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, 
Mathhias Shoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, 
Joely Richardson, Ciaran Hinds, Mary-Louise Parker
and Jeremy Irons
Based on the novel by Jason Matthews
Screenplay by Justin Haythe
Directed by Francis Lawrence



Reviewed by Patrick & Paul Gibbs
Jennifer Lawrence is a gifted and stunningly attractive actress who started out as an indie favorite and rocketed to super stardom, and Silver Linings Playbook is among my all time favorite films. But Lawrence stumbled badly with Passengers, a film that was basically Titanic in Space but with more date rape, and she followed that by hooking up with Darren Aronofsky, whose film mother! got mixed responses from critics and dismal ones from audiences. She needs a comeback, and Red Sparrow, her big re-teaming with Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence, is decidedly not it.

Images Courtesy 20th Century Fox
The story begins with Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova facing a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that abruptly ends her career. She and her mother then receive a visit from Dominka's "Uncle Vanya" (seriously), aka Ivan Dimitrevich Egorov, a high ranking Russian official who recruits his niece for a secret mission, and when she witnesses an assassination, she is given two choices: execution, or go to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons, by which I mean it's basically Hogwarts for whores and gigalos. Just imagine having a lecherous, middle aged owl come to your door with an acceptance letter to this place in the middle of the night and asking you to show him your wand. And then you get there and you put on the buttless sorting chaps to find out what house you're in.

All right, all right. Suffice it to say, Dominika is degraded, abused, nearly raped, and taught that her body is not her property (essentially, she goes through the Hollywood casting process.). But she graduates from BDSMU and is sent out in to the field to boink Moose and Squirrell, when she meets a CIA agent played by Joel Edgerton, who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust, and she becomes drawn to him.

This grueling, graphic, disgusting and yet often very cartoonish snooze fest is a jaw dropping effort coming from Lawrence and Lawrence, especially Lawrence, who seems to really be losing her touch when it comes to choosing material. The only explanation that I can see for what she was going for here was to give the finger to Internet trolls by saying "OK, fine, I'll show you ONE of the twins, but I'm going to make sure that the whole wretched experience is part of such a dismal, uncomfortable and relentlessly unpleasant ordeal that you will literally never ask again."

Image Courtesy 20th Century Fox
All of this comes at the worst possible time, or hopefully the best, as the tolerance for the mistreatment of women is lower than ever, and yet one fears that the same crowd that believes that there is an element of feministic triumph to Kill Bill may indeed be fooled by the attempt at a cathartic twist here, but even moreso than in that film, this movie is as guilty of exploitation as its characters are, and in this case there are no clever or entertaining thrills to distract from that. If you find anything about this movie to be sensual, there's an office where people like you are supposed to register, and if you find it empowering, I think I may be even more worried about you. In fairness to Jennifer Lawrence, it is likely that she truly is trying make a personal statement by the nature of the nudity she does in this film and mother!, but it's not working. And as for the acting, Joel Edgerton, a brilliant actor who managed to shine even in the abysmal "Bright" makes no impression at all here, apart from fairing far better with his American accent than Lawrence does with her embarrassing "now you hear it/now you don't" Russian one. And Jeremy Irons' accent and effort are so half hearted that at one point when he approached Lawrence, we expected him to say "I just came from the Academy, they want both of our Oscars back." And at 2 hours and 19 minutes, the Lawrence behind the camera presents this with all of the strong pacing of tortoise being ridden uphill by the guy who played Kevin on The Office. 

Francis Lawrence does to inject an atmospheric and authentic feel to the proceedings by making sure people smoke like chimneys while all of the stock Russian composers are heard in the background, but he never goes any deeper than that. 

We hated, hated, hated this movie probably morseo than anything we've had to sit through since The Black Dahlia, this is truly the kind of film that makes you consider giving up not only on being a critic but on the future of humanity in general.



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