Main cast: Jennifer Lawrence (Dominika Egorova), Joel Edgerton (Nate Nash), Matthias Schoenaerts (Ivan Vladimirovich Egorov), Charlotte Rampling (Matron), Mary-Louise Parker (Stephanie Boucher), Jeremy Irons (General Vladimir Andreievich Korchnoi), Ciarán Hinds (Colonel Zacharov), Joely Richardson (Nina Egorova), Bill Camp (Marty Gable), Thekla Reuten (Marta Yelenova), Sergej Onopko (Simionov), Sebastian Hülk (Sergei Matorin), Hugh Quarshie (Simon Benford), Sakina Jaffrey (Trish Forsyth), Douglas Hodge (Maxim Volontov), Sasha Frolova (Anya), and Kristof Konrad (Dimitri Ustinov)
Director: Francis Lawrence
Good news, fam: Jennifer Lawrence shows quite a lot of skin and even briefly gets naked in this one! And, you know, I never realized how attractive Joel Edgerton can be until he shows up here wearing only tight black swim shorts and, in one scene, all bloodied and beaten up while in tight black briefs. But my hottie of the movie award goes to Matthias Schoenaets – he doesn’t get naked even a bit here, but there is something about his evil, manipulative smirk that makes me want to do naughty things to his character, like stripping off his flesh while having my way with him.
Wait, what? Sorry, but if you are under the assumption that Red Sparrow is a serious spy thriller, boy, I suggest you adjust your expectations a bit. This is a movie which has American and British people playing leading roles of Russian people, while the actual Eastern-European people are sportingly given bit roles, and not all of them are Russian either. Dávid Zoltán Miller, the only male in the cast – an extra, naturally – that actually goes all full frontal is Hungarian, for instance. Thus, this movie is a festival of accents, most of which come and go, in a movie that is supposed to be almost uniformly Russian. And come on, Charlotte Rampling and Jeremy Irons each playing a Russian? There is no amount of alcohol on my part that can make me believe that the Matron and General Korchnoi have even a drop of Russian in them.
So, the story. Basically, we have Dominika Egorova who is an up-and-coming ballet dancer… until her male dance partner and his lover conspire to have him “accidentally” trip her on stage and break her leg. The injury is far worse than they planned: Dominika cannot dance again after the surgery. Because this is Russia, it is the dance company that paid for her housing and her mother’s medical bills all this while, and with her no longer dancing for them, that will stop soon. In comes her uncle, Ivan Egorov, who is a top shot in the Russian intelligence service the SVR. He only shows up when he wants something, and he wants Dominika to lure a politician into a hotel room and, after “distracting him”, switch out his cellphone with one that is bugged by the SVR. Ivan promises to keep her safe, but this only means he sends in someone to kill Dimitri Ustinov while that man is in the process of raping our heroine.
And so it begins. Ivan points out that the SVR leaves no witnesses in everything they do, and since Dominika witnessed Dimitri’s assassination, she will now have to choose between death or enlisting into the spy school of the SVR. What choice does our heroine have? The school turns out to be one in which spies, called Sparrows, are taught to be skilled seducers rather than kung-fu masters, so poor Dominika has to subject herself to a series of humiliating sexual situations, although the movie actually makes it far easier for her. I mean, she defies the Matron, refuses to submit to sexual situations during training, et cetera, and yet, Dominika never gets punished even a bit unlike her peers.
It’s hard to empathize for a heroine who is given a too-obvious special plot armor, and that’s the biggest flaw of this movie: the plot bends over backwards many times to ensure that Dominika always get out a potentially dangerous situation OK, and even scenes of her getting tortured lack suspense because she is always being looked out by men: her uncle Ivan as well as the CIA agent Nate Nash (you can’t get more American than that, with such a code name). The plot is also way too convoluted and tortuous for its own good, to a point that the movie quickly stops being a spy thriller after the first half hour and turns instead into a movie more intent on throwing increasingly artificial twists and turns at the audience.
If you can overlook her accent that comes and goes, Jennifer Lawrence puts a decent job into playing a tough protagonist, but like I’ve said, it’s hard to see her being at the same level as, say, the protagonists of Atomic Blonde or Salt because of the too-obvious plot armor the movie gives her character. Nate Nash is a nice foil to all the corrupt self-serving nastiness in the movie, as he is ultimately the boy scout that cares too much for the people around him, but he doesn’t have much to do here other than to look hot. But really, I have the best time looking at Ivan – the actor is hot in a really bad boy way, and his character is just deliciously amoral – even his feelings for his niece are of the nasty, perverse sort.
Anyway, Red Sparrow has plenty of skanky and gory stuff, and it’s best to watch this movie just for those elements. It’s more enjoyable with the brain switched off. As long as expectations are kept to a minimum, injurious effects on the brain will also be minimal.