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Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Jennifer Lawrence is making a series of dubious career moves, and this sexist, brutally violent spy thriller does not do this sparkling actress justice. (Review by Patrick Compton - 4/10)

Jennifer Lawrence – Hollywood’s top female movie star – is making some unusual role choices, but I’m not at all sure they’re the right ones.

Right now, she is dividing audiences and critics with her films, whether it be the hysterical Darren Aronofsky drama Mother! or this unpleasant spy thriller by the director of three films in the Hunger Games franchise, Francis Lawrence.

Not quite trash, and certainly not adult drama, Red Sparrow falls between a number of stools and, at 139 minutes, long outstays its welcome.

Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a prima ballerina in contemporary Moscow who is deliberately injured on stage by her male partner. No longer able to pay for her ailing mother’s (Joely Richardson) care, and under threat of being forced out of their apartment, she’s forced to make a deal with her scumbag uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), a top official in Russian intelligence.

Forced to give up her chosen profession, Dominika is sent to “whore school” where Charlotte Rampling plays a flinty principal who teaches students how to use seduction as a tool to extract information. Dominika has a hateful time of it there, but soon gets drawn into a plot to befriend a CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) and attempt to discover the identity of a mole in the Russian government.

That’s enough of the plot, which gets increasingly patchy and unlikely. The real point of the movie is to undress or expose its glamorous star as often as possible, or when that becomes too familiar, to submit her to violent treatment. The sex and nakedness is hardly erotic, pitched instead at the tastes of drooling schoolboys, while the violence, including some queasy torture scenes, sometimes runs close to violence-porn.

All the dialogue is conducted in that quasi-Eastern European English beloved of directors down the ages with accents slip-siding all over the place. Why aren’t actors allowed to use their normal voices? Audiences would automatically make the adjustment and understand.

The movie, which has a glossy, travelogue element as the action shifts from Moscow to Budapest, Vienna and London, just about gets by on the performances of the cast, although Lawrence is forced to be far too impenetrable a character to get the best out of her talents which thrive on wit and passion. There is no chemistry between her character and the CIA agent, which doesn’t help matters. There are also cameos for Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds and Mary-Louise Parker.

Red Sparrow, which opened on March 2, is showing at Ballito, Suncoast, Musgrave, The Pavilion, Cornubia, Gateway IMAX, Galleria, Midlands Mall and Watercrest Mall. - Patrick Compton