** This movie review appeared in the e-copy of the new straits times
IT’s a yawn of a spy movie, that’s bigger on kinky stuff than espionage. And what kinky stuff spies in Russia (as per this movie) have to learn in simply amazing.
Poor Jennifer Lawrence, to have to play spy extraordinaire a.k.a. Red Sparrow, for she seems to have lost her mojo by the end of the movie. I put it down to having to attend a “wh***e school” just to learn espionage tricks – more like s&m — from a matron (Charlotte Rampling) where sex is a weapon to extract information.
In this tale, adapted from a book, Lawrence starts as a prima ballerina, Dominika Egorova, who suffers a horrible accident on stage, which viewers are privy too in an artistic camera angle. Nice touch by cinematographer Jo Willems (she also worked on the Hunger Games trilogy).
Her ailing mum needs her to work, so Dominika goes to her slimy uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), and then on to Sparrow School and the courses are about how to love on command, trigger sexual desires and on seduction and manipulation. Geisha training ala Russia?
Anyway, Dominika gets to be the best, or face being shot by the matron. Her assignment is to seduce a C.I.A. agent, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), who is handling a Russian mole. But Nate knows her game, and sets out to entrap her, so that she will spy for the Americans.
This is no Mata Hari as portrayed by Greta Garbo in a 1931 movie. There is no unforgettable Shiva, I Dance For You scene, after which one dude says, she makes matrimony so dull.
Red Sparrow, even with its Gulag-feel, is the spy version of 50 Shades of Grey, where women are portrayed as sexual playthings.
But Lawrence must like the direction of Hunger Games’ Francis Lawrence with wanton scenes, torture acts, graphic nudity, and lack of proper clothes. So what exactly does Red Sparrow offer viewers?
Certainly not a great love affair with Nash, because there was a lack of onscreen chemistry. But it could also be because Ms Lawrence is like a blank canvas.
Perhaps the point here is to show what a woman is willing to do to survive, and keep her apartment with her mum in it.
Here’s my take: Red Sparrow should have been a manga movie, then the animation needed would have taken the film to new technical levels.
Otherwise, not even wasabi popcorn helps.