Red Sparrow, director Francis Lawrence’s spy-noire is a film rife with muddled plot development, a wasted acting corps, far too much violence and a questionable geopolitical statement.
Jason Matthews, a former operative and the writer of the novel Red Sparrow, was praised for his realistic depiction of surveillance operatives and the dangers they face. Absolutely none of this carries over to the film adaptation. Instead, the movie revolves around particular moments of torture and sex, and not the vital relationships that should power the narrative.
Even after heavy handed editing, Red Sparrow remains a serious contender for the most explicit R-rated movie to hit theaters since The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Lawrence had to cut out some of the movie in order to appease the ratings board enough to get an R rating, since leaving the extended version of one particular scene would instead have earned the much more restrictive NC-17. The director claimed that the changes that were made weren’t substantial and had no effect on the overall messaging of the movie. With that said, the edits made Red Sparrow no more palatable.
Jennifer Lawrence, who has avoided roles that require nudity in the past, challenged herself by choosing the role of Dominika Egorova. However, the scenes did not add real plot value, instead serving as a brutal and carnal distraction from the already confusing storyline. It was almost impossible to track the loyalties and betrayals. These scenes could be an attempt at making a movie that mirrors the emotional disconnectedness that operatives need to feel, but instead produced a vicious and voyeuristic tone.
Red Sparrow, intentionally or coincidentally, came out at a strange time, seemingly to cash in on today’s top headlines. In an environment ripe for a contemporary espionage narrative, Red Sparrow cannot deliver an understandable storyline. Egorova (Lawrence), the protagonist, switches sides around four times. Everyone is a double agent, knows a double agent or is accused of being a double agent, which creates intrigue but grows tiresome by the end of the movie.
Unfortunately, Red Sparrow is a disappointing film, even though the set pieces are all there. The acclaimed supporting cast includes notable actors like Jeremy Irons, who has won an Oscar, and Mary Louise Parker, who makes a comedic appearance.
Red Sparrow is not a movie I would see if I were a queasier or more modest man. If you want to watch some assassinations, auto accidents, tortures and bloodbaths, go ahead and see Red Sparrow. If you want to watch a thrilling spy film, stay home and rent Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy or Casino Royale.