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Red Sparrow Movie Review

Red Sparrow (2018) movie poster Red Sparrow

Theatrical Release: March 2, 2018 / Running Time: 141 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Francis Lawrence / Writers: Justin Haythe (screenplay), Jason Matthews (book)

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Dominika Egorova), Joel Edgerton (Nate Nash), Matthias Schoenaerts (Vanya Egorov), Charlotte Rampling (Matron), Mary-Louise Parker (Stephanie Boucher), Ciarαn Hinds (Zakharov), Joely Richardson (Nina Egorova), Bill Camp (Marty Gable), Jeremy Irons (General Korchnoi), Thekla Reuten (Marta), Douglas Hodge (Maxim Volontov), Sakina Jaffrey (Trish Forsyth), Sergei Polunin (Konstantin), Sasha Frolova (Anya), Sebastian Hόlk (Matorin)


After the Hunger Games movies made her one of the highest-paid actresses in the history of actresses, Jennifer Lawrence had power. Barely twenty, Lawrence suddenly had her pick of Hollywood's projects and she chose wisely, collaborating with writer-director David O. Russell to the tune of an Oscar win and acclaim.
Lawrence could spend three months on virtually anything and collect a big paycheck, but she's instead helped keep the X-Men franchise respectable and taken chances like Darren Aronofsky's divisive mother!.

Lawrence's star power and fairly sterling track record are put to the test on Red Sparrow, a fairly sizable big studio movie being sold entirely on her lead turn. Adapted from the 2013 novel of the same name by former CIA operative Jason Matthews, Sparrow casts Lawrence as Dominika Egorova, an accomplished Russian ballet dancer who suffers a painful, career-derailing injury in her introductory scene. Dominika's uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) reaches out to her with evidence that her injury was actually a deliberate act by a spotlight-seeking understudy. Then he gives her a chance to become an intelligence officer.

Dominika's training is not what we think of when we think "spy." She and her fellow young Sparrows are taught to use their bodies to service others and fulfill missions. It's deadly work, but Dominika seems to be cut out for it. She is assigned to target one Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), an American CIA agent who has returned to Eastern Europe to handle some unfinished business after his opening scene experience left him wounded professionally. As Dominika tries to out the mole among Russian intelligence, she also tries to get a read on Nash.

"Red Sparrow" stars Jennifer Lawrence as Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballet dancer turned spy.

Sparrow reunites Lawrence with Francis Lawrence, who directed her on the last three of the four Hunger Games movies. But this is not YA fodder that will play for tweens.
It's decidedly R-rated fare and that's pretty uncommon for a movie of this size. Sure, you can point to Deadpool, Logan, and to a lesser degree even Prometheus as R-rated movies with commercial might. All three of those were distributed by Fox, who also releases this one. But it's still somewhat surprising and a gamble for Lawrence, arguably still the biggest movie star around right now, to move to something so full of violence and sex as this instead of coasting on safe PG-13 moneymakers.

Sparrow features nudity and profanity from Lawrence, whose heroine is trained to exert her sexual agency and does so repeatedly to intended effect. The screenplay by Justin Haythe (Revolutionary Road, A Cure for Wellness) probably doesn't stray too far from Matthews' text. It does a passable job of storytelling, though you anticipate it eventually relying heavily on twists and indeed it does.

Lawrence has never been afraid. House at the End of the Street and Passengers are as close as she's gotten to mindless mainstream movies and even the latter of those wasn't as bad as its detractors would have you believe. I wasn't crazy about mother!, but the fact that she made that warrants such respect and demonstrates that she hasn't lost touch with her breakout film, the 2010 indie Winter's Bone.

Among mainstream contemporary cinema, Red Sparrow most directly recalls Atomic Blonde, last summer's Charlize Theron vehicle that was well-received critically and an okay box office performer. It's a comparison that Lawrence's movie can withstand, even if it's much less stylized and breathtaking on an action front. Lawrence pulls off a Russian accent admirably and gives a strong performance unlike any we've seen her give before. Edgerton is a solid second lead, just as comfortable with his put-on American accent. Old pros like Ciaran Hinds, Jeremy Irons, and Charlotte Rampling chip in some nice support. And even at its long 140-minute runtime, the film never has you itching for it to end.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Black Panther • Game Night • Ready Player One
From the Director: The Hunger Games: Complete 4-Film Collection | Screenplay by Justin Haythe: Revolutionary Road • The Lone Ranger
Jennifer Lawrence: mother! • Passengers • Joy • Silver Linings Playbook • Winter's Bone
Joel Edgerton: Black Mass • Jane Got a Gun • It Comes at Night • Loving • The Great Gatsby
Spies: Atomic Blonde • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. • Jason Bourne

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Reviewed March 2, 2018.

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