There seems to be an unspoken rule when it comes to the spy game in popular culture; it’s almost exclusively a “boys’ club”. We’ve reached a point where for every serious James Bond or Jason Bourne, there’s also an Austin Powers. There’s a huge dearth of strong female characters present, outside of the occasional femme fatale or classic damsel in distress that might cling to the brawny tuxedo clad hero, posed for the promo art. We’ve got more than our fair share of guys here, so let’s get some kickass women in the mix and let them start cracking some skulls like the much needed shot of octane fueled girl power last year with Charlize Theron in “Atomic Blonde”! Now, we have the release of the latest collaboration with Jennifer Lawrence and the director of her last three films in “The Hunger Games” franchise, Francis Lawrence with “Red Sparrow”.
Based on the series of novels by former CIA operative Jason Matthews, Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is a prima ballerina with the Bolshoi Ballet until her career is tragically cut short due to a horrific injury that leaves her with no way to support her ailing mother Nina (Joely Richardson). Approached by her uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts), she is offered a way out by recruiting her into Sparrow School, run by Matron (Charlotte Rampling) which trains students in the art of seduction and information extraction. His superiors, Colonel Alexei Ivanovich (Ciaran Hinds) and General Vladimir Andreivich Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons), question not only her abilities but also his motives, but he assures them he can keep her in line. She eventually crosses paths with her first official assignment, CIA officer Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), to find out about a mole amongst their ranks and begins to develop feelings for him. While at the same time, starts seeking a way out of the seemingly unwinnable situation she finds herself in.
Where do I begin here? OK, here: this film is an absolute mess! As much as I wanted to be a fan of this film, I just couldn’t find anything that I could wrap my arms around and fully embrace. The pacing feels completely off and the chemistry between the two leads is completely non-existent. I’m sorry, but a film that features Jennifer Lawrence in sex scenes that make you want to cringe and look away has really accomplished something unimaginable. Maybe that was the intent, but somehow I doubt it; there is just an overall feeling of incoherence and lack of direction for a film of this size. What should have been another franchise in the making feels like an anti-climactic incomplete project with no real identity.