Released: 1th March 2018 (Australia)
Seen: 20th March 2018
“They gave me a choice… die or become a sparrow”
Red Sparrow is a story about a young ballerina named Dominika Egorova (Played by Jennifer Lawrence) who suffers a tragic accident, ending her ballerina days. Sadly, that job as a ballerina is what was paying for her mother’s medical care so she finds herself in need of a new job. Fortunately, her uncle Ivan Egorov (Played by Matthias Schoenaerts) had a job for her… unfortunately, doing that job makes her a witness to a murder of a politician and in exchange for her life, she must become a Sparrow. Sparrows are young attractive men and women who are trained to use their bodies to get the information that they need for the Russian government. They seduce, they delight, they do what is needed in order to get the information they want. While Demonika is doing this, an American agent named Nate Nash (Played by Joel Edgerton) is having trouble with a double agent who he’s trying to protect and Russia want’s to find… and Russia has just the Sparrow for the job.
Now doesn’t that sound like an exciting film? A spy thriller with heavy amounts of seduction and sex, an international tale that spans multiple continents and had a lot of potential political intrigue and personal struggles? Yeah, it would be so lovely if that’s what we got. I was hoping for, essentially, a hyper-sexualised Russian female James Bond style story. What we get is a bunch of American, English and Australian actors doing very silly accents and being naked at random intervals. There’s nothing wrong per se with a film that has its main cast in various states of undress, or indeed for using sex as a main component of the story but there is a problem when you half-ass it or when you exchange sex for rape. This film does both of those and it’s baffling.
I’ve never seen a film that tries to blend rape and sex into the same thing before but this one does it. It’s actually disturbing how often the main character of this film is explicitly raped on screen and everyone reacts like it was nothing. There’s literally a scene where the main character is raped, she defends herself and is then given a lecture because she injured the man who raped her… who she is then later expected to sleep with willingly. That’s a sequence of events that happens in this movie and its repellant. Yes, I’m well aware that they do this intentionally to make us side with her and understand her actions later but it’s so poorly handled by everyone that you don’t side with her, you just get angry at the film for putting that on screen. Rape on film is an insanely touchy subject but there are ways to do it and ways not to do it. Acting like it’s no big deal is how to not handle those kinds of sequences.
“You must learn to push yourself beyond all limitation”
When it comes to performing, everyone is phoning it in. Every single person seems to think that putting on a funny accent is all the acting that they have to do. They’re good accents, I didn’t once mentally compare Jennifer Lawrence to Natasha Fatale, but god damn does everyone in this film need to have an accent that clearly isn’t their own? Maybe one or two of the cops are using their natural accents but it’s so weird seeing so many people who clearly are putting on an accent to varying degrees of success. Everyone also seems to have decided that the best kind of acting is to not move your face in the slightest even when you’re talking, there are so many times when major events will happen and no one reacts.
The only actor who is giving anything of value is Jennifer Lawrence who has several really good moments that make you pay attention to her and actually want to root for her. She’s doing her best with what she has available to her, she just wasn’t given much to work with. When the best scene you have involves you being naked on a table spread eagle demanding your rapist have sex with you, you know you don’t have A material. A lot of this films problems are at the scripting level, the script is barely there and the plot is a convoluted mess that at several points just takes a hard left turn with no justification. It’s jarring to try and follow Dominika’s story when every time you think you know what’s happening, everything changes and you’re left with no clue what’s going on. Sure, twists and turns are a natural part of the spy genre but when those twists happen, there is usually a good reason behind it. Here? Twists happen because we’ve gone 20 minutes without titillating or shocking the audience so something needs to happen.
“If she’s compromised, she will be eliminated”
The biggest problem this film has is that it’s gratuitous as hell. I have no real problem with violent movies, I’m a fan of extreme films in general but if you’re just going to show me violent gruesome stuff with no reason behind it, I’m going to be annoyed. This film annoyed me. There are multiple times when they show certain things just to be shocking, they show torture sequences purely to disturb the audience and with no real reason in the narrative of the film. There are so many cheap shots that’re just there to either shock you or titillate you but after a while, you grow numb to that and just end up bored. There’s only so many times that you can witness someone being skinned before it becomes boring. There’s only so long you can linger on a naked person presenting everything they have before it becomes wallpaper.
I didn’t know what to expect when I went in to see this movie, but I definitely didn’t expect to be bored. I didn’t expect to spend the entire runtime just wishing that something would happen. Something interesting, something of value but there’s just nothing there. There’s some half decent acting, some well-framed shots and that’s about it. I do not know how you make a Russian Spy Sex Thriller boring but Red Sparrow made that exact thing happen.