The Movie Waffler New Release Review - RED SPARROW | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - RED SPARROW

red sparrow review
A female Russian spy becomes involved with a CIA agent.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, Mary-Louise Parker, Ciarán Hinds, Joely Richardson

red sparrow poster

Legend has it that since the days of the KGB, Russian intelligence has groomed attractive young women to become 'sparrows', secret agents who use their sex appeal to lure unsuspecting horny westerners (including possibly the current President of the USA, if you believe the rumours of a 'pee tape') into honey traps. Based on the novel by former US intelligence officer Jason Matthews, Red Sparrow explores such a salacious concept.

red sparrow

The titular sparrow is Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence), a ballerina (accepting that a woman with Lawrence's healthy physique could perform at the Bolshoi is the first of many reasons to suspend your disbelief here) whose career is ended when she breaks her leg during a performance. Struggling to pay the rent for the flat she shares with her sickly mother (Joely Richardson), and lying low after dishing out a near fatal beating to her Bolshoi replacement and a fellow dancer, Dominika accepts what she believes will be a one-off job for her uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts), an agent for SVR, Russia's intelligence service. The job goes awry, resulting in the rape of Dominika, who is subsequently packed off to a school for young agents run by Charlotte Rampling, the only performer who seems to fully grasp just how campy this whole affair really is and channels the spirit of those evil wardens who populated '70s women in prison flicks.

After being trained to become a combination of whore and espionage agent, Dominika is sent to work at the agency's Budapest station. There she runs into CIA agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), who falls for her like a puppy dog. Could he provide her with a way out of her predicament?

red sparrow

For a movie adapted from a novel penned by an author with real life experience of the murky spy world, Red Sparrow is remarkably unconvincing. Both the American and Russian intelligence agencies are portrayed as laughably moronic, populated by agents and officers so dumb that a former ballerina manages to outwit them at every turn, despite boasting no experience save for a three month crash course at Charlotte Rampling's Whore School™. The worst of the lot is Edgerton's Nash, the big lug falling for Dominika's winsome ways like Derek from accounts falling for a lap dancer on a stag trip to Riga ("I think that stripper really likes me!"). The average bloke knows something is awry when their wife or girlfriend suggests a bit of heavy petting, but not this naive dolt.

red sparrow

For its first 45 minutes or so, Red Sparrow appears to be aware of its nonsensical, trashy nature, playing out like a '90s Paul Verhoeven thriller, all blood, boobs and bludgeoning. It's a guilty pleasure, and this approach helps you get over how awful the Russian accents are. Once Dominika graduates from Charlotte Rampling's Whore School™ the film begins to believe its own hype, turning into a very silly John LeCarre adaptation. The more plot twists it throws up, the more we find ourselves scratching our heads at how it consistently contradicts itself and appears to be making up its plot on the fly. Given the utter incompetence of her various enemies, the only real danger Dominika faces is that of stumbling into one of the film's many plot holes and breaking her other ankle.

Red Sparrow is in UK/ROI cinemas March 1st.