THE “SPARROWS” REFERRED to in this entertaining (i.e Jennifer Lawrence in “a pretty little nothing you’re almost wearing” as 007 once commented), if godsmackingly silly movie, are young, patriotic Russians trained in the art of seduction. Or, as our heroine, Dominika Egorova, describes it, “whore school”. The action is set in modern times, though it has the feel of a 60’s spy thriller; as if the writers (Justin Haythe from a book by Jason Matthews) had suddenly read about Christine Keeler and John Profumo (Even the fuzzy dingy lighting of Jo Willem’s cinematography complements the dated, History Channel look of the film)
“Red Sparrow” is John le Carre by way of Harold Robbins.
Dominika was a much lauded ballerina, who, after a tragic accident and in need of money to support her invalid mother (you can hear the violin strings quivering in the background) is seduced by her Spymaster uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) into this line of work. From Dominika to Dominatrix in a heartbeat. Her seductive prowess leads her to an American agent (Joel Edgerton) who is in league with a Russian mole. Who’s the mole? Will Dominika’s manifest charms seduce the information from him or must we endure seeing his skin being slowly peeled from his body? Or is the entire plot a long-winded version of the cliché about revenge being a dish best served cold?
And do we really care?
Director Francis Lawrence (“The Hunger Games” trilogy) never manages to raise a tremor of tension but he does use his movie’s key asset -Jennifer Lawrence’s goddess-perfect body – to full effect. That said, she, like the rest of the (entirely Russian-free) A list cast (Charlotte Rampling, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds and Jeremy Lions) seem borne under…freighted with a crippling weight of ennui. They all read their lines without stumbling over them. Or giggling. And that must rate as some measure of achievement. Indeed, the only displays of what could pass for human emotion are when people scream as they’re tortured.
Sex and pain. Nudity and body parts. Welcome to this year’s first SM movie.
RED SPARROW. Dir: Francis Lawrence. Screenplay: Justin Haythe (“The Lone Ranger”). With: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Ciarán Hinds). Cinematographer: Jo Williams (“Hunger Games” trilogy). Production Designer: Maria Djuekovic (“The imitation Game”, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy”)