Setting aside how much we don't buy Jennifer Lawrence (Mother!) as the Bolshoi's prima ballerina, it becomes even more absurd when an accident onstage somehow forces her into the spy-packed world of international espionage in Red Sparrow.
Lawrence is Dominika, a young woman whose uncle is the minister of, like, shadowy operations or something for Russia. He tricks her into the spycraft game of them vs. America and the search for a mole they believe has infiltrated their government. But why would she just do this? So she can care for her mother, who ails from some nameless sickness, obviously. Apparently in Russia, if you can't make the big bucks as a ballerina, you have to become a seductive spy. Chyort!
What follows is a series of confusing double-crosses, brutal torture scenes and wildly un-sexy sex rendezvous. Pointless characters pop up regularly and scenes wherein somebody does a sneaky spy thing only for it to be discovered moments later render said spy thing moot. Not to worry, though, because lukewarm performances are everywhere, from Joel Edgerton (from the Netflix original movie Bright, which we still say should have been called Lieutenant Goblin) as the forgettable CIA agent, Matthias Schoenaerts (The Danish Girl) as the cruel uncle, Charlotte Rampling (Assassin's Creed) as the heartless spy school headmistress, and Jeremy Irons as … well, he really only ever does Jeremy Irons. All the while, Lawrence's silly stab at a Russian accent undermines what was an already painfully too-serious performance, and Mary-Louise Parker's brief turn as an unscrupulous chief of staff for a US senator feels like one of the most low-stakes and overblown setups in the history of spy film.
Still, Red Sparrow does manage to not overstay its welcome (even with a running time in excess of two hours) so long as one understands that it should by no means be taken seriously or assumed to be anything other than an escapist means of killing a couple hours. If nothing else, scenes of Moscow, Budapest and Vienna remind us that Europe is pretty beautiful, Russia is pretty bleak and that we can always fall back on John le Carré in a pinch.
+Not boring, per se …
-… but not so great
Directed by Francis Lawrence
With Lawrence, Edgerton, Irons and Rampling
Violet Crown, Regal, R, 139 min.