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MOVIE REVIEW

Red Sparrow also known as “Operación Red Sparrow,” “Operação Red Sparrow,” “A Agente Vermelha,” “Crveni vrabac,” “Czerwona jaskólka,” “Gorrión rojo,” “Izdaja,” “Kizil Serçe,” “Punane varblane,” “Raudonasis zvirblis,” “Rdeci vrabec,” “Rudá volavka,” “Vörös veréb,” “Κόκκινο σπουργίτι,” «Красный воробей,» «Червената лястовица,» «Червоний горобець»

MPAA Rating: R-Rating (MPAA) for strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity.

Reviewed by: Jonathan Rodriguez
CONTRIBUTOR

Extremely Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Spy Mystery Thriller Adaptation
Length:
2 hr. 19 min.
Year of Release:
2018
USA Release:
March 2, 2018 (wide—2,900+ theaters)
DVD: May 22, 2018
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

The depravity of mankind

Assassins / murderers

Torture

Perversity

Rape victims’ stories

Shame and rape

Prostitution

SEXUAL LUST—Why does the Bible warn about it? Answer

FILM VIOLENCE—How does viewing violence in movies affect families? Answer

Spies in the Bible

Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation Copyright, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Featuring: Jennifer LawrenceDominika Egorova
Joel EdgertonNate Nash
Matthias Schoenaerts … Vanya Egorov
Charlotte Rampling … Matron
Mary-Louise ParkerStephanie Boucher
Ciarán HindsZakharov
Jeremy IronsGeneral Korchnoi
Joely Richardson … Nina Egorova
Bill Camp … Marty Gable
Thekla Reuten … Marta
Douglas Hodge … Maxim Volontov
See all »
Director: Francis Lawrence—“The Hunger Games: Mockingjay” Part 1-2 (2014, 2015), “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” (2013), “Water for Elephants” (2011), “I Am Legend” (2007), “Constantine” (2005)
Producer: Garrett Basch
Peter Chernin
See all »
Distributor: Distributor: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Trademark logo.
Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

There are lots of things you could do with two hours and twenty minutes of your time. For instance, you could go for a seven-mile walk through your town. You could finally begin reading that book you’ve been telling yourself you’d one day start. You could (re)watch “Black Panther” and have a five-minute discussion afterward. You could sit in a waiting room for over an hour and a half and then finally be seen by the dentist. Or, you could drive over an hour to a fancy, reservation-only restaurant for dinner, only to realize you got the night wrong and have to drive back home, dejected and hungry. Any of these options would be preferable to subjecting yourself to the dreck that is “Red Sparrow.”

Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika, a prestigious dancer in Russia’s Bolshoi Ballet. After suffering a harrowing injury on stage, she is faced with the prospect of losing the apartment she shares with her mother (Joely Richardson), and the health insurance her mother (who suffers from a mystery ailment that makes her talk quietly and constantly look concerned) needs to survive. Along comes her uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), who works intelligence in the Russian government, with a proposition. If she can seduce a high-ranking politician and gather sensitive information, her uncle will make sure Dominika and her mother are taken care of.

The politician rapes Dominika in a hotel room, but he is murdered mid-rape by a mystery assailant who then transports her to an interrogation room. Shady Uncle Vanya appears to tell her that she should probably be shot for having witnessed the killing, but instead tells her he is going to send her to “spy school” where she will learn all the secrets to be an operative/asset of the government. She can avoid death this way, and he again promises if she follows through with her assignment, he will let her keep the apartment and her mom’s insurance.

Dominika agrees, and is sent to “spy school,” which could also be called “Charlotte Rampling’s Boarding School for Manipulation, Sexual Deviance, and Lock-Picking.” Here, Dominika is almost kicked out (which means being shot) for attacking a fellow cadet who tries to rape her, but Uncle Vanya convinces the government officials to send her to Budapest on a mission instead. He promises her that if she goes on the mission, you guessed it, he will ensure her and her mother’s health and security.

Her mission in Budapest is to make contact with a CIA operative named Nate (Joel Edgerton), who the Russians believe is getting secrets from a mole in the Russian government. All Dominika must do is get close enough to Nate to uncover the identity of the mole. A simple task, as long as she doesn’t run into any complications, like developing feelings for the CIA agent. Needless to say, it is not a simple task.

“Red Sparrow” is rated R for “strong violence, torture, sexual content, language, and some graphic nudity.” Interestingly, language is strong in this movie, but it isn’t constant, like it is in many other movies of similar genre. What is constant in the film is violent and sexual content. Look—it’s pretty extreme: a naked couple having sex is beaten to death in a sauna, people have their skin flayed off, a man’s throat is cut while he is being strangled while he is raping a woman, a woman strips naked (not full frontal) and tells a would-be rapist to go ahead and rape her, but only if he will look her in the eyes, a man strips naked (full frontal) because he is told his body belongs to the government, and he must obey. And I could keep going. But I won’t.

Despite all that, there was a family of six seated across the aisle from me who brought their teenagers and a young girl of about 7. I have gone on rants about this before, so I won’t again here, but please, don’t take children to this. Or teenagers. Or yourself, for that matter.

This movie might sound relentlessly bleak and humorless. And it totally is. I’m not sure a single character ever once cracked a smile. But, worse, “Red Sparrow” is a monotonous slog. Lawrence and Edgerton, two otherwise excellent performers, have no chemistry whatsoever. It’s startling how little they bring to the screen together, or how little life either of them can individually inject into this movie. The filmmakers made the fatal mistake of thinking that, by casting two big-name stars, we will care about their plight. We don’t care. At all.

The script does them no favors either. I remember thinking at one point in the movie, “This dialog would sound ridiculous even without all the ridiculous-sounding accents.” The movie seems advertised as a spy action-thriller, but it’s not that in the slightest bit—it’s more of a heavy spy-drama with some bloody deaths and dismemberments. There is little action and no-thrills. Actually, there is one scene that nicely builds tension, but it immediately dissipates as the movie’s only interesting character gets hit by a truck. Although, I couldn’t help but be jealous of that character getting to escape the movie while I had to continue sitting through it. I’m also jealous of you, readers, if you heed my warning and choose not to see “Red Sparrow” and use your two hours and twenty minutes to do ANYTHING other than see this movie. Those are two hours and twenty minutes I won’t be getting back.

  • Violence: Extreme
  • Profane language: Heavy
  • Vulgar/Crude language: Heavy
  • Nudity: Extreme
  • Sex: Extreme

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


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Secular Movie Critics
Jennifer Lawrence is tied to a chair, beaten and tortured. She is the victim of rape and attempted rape. She is forced to strip naked in private and in public. She is slashed, stabbed and has a gun put to her head. …ultimately, these shocking and violent sequences become repetitive and gratuitous, making “Red Sparrow” feel more like a cheap exercise in exploitation than a visceral tale of survival. … [2]
Christy Lemire, Roger Ebert.com
…I wonder if Lawrence felt similarly indebted to her ‘Hunger Games’ director Francis Lawrence to make this movie, which seems to exist for little purpose other than to show her naked in as many ways as contractually obligable… One scene is so gratuitous it’s almost funny, Lawrence lying naked and spread-eagled on an assembly desk, only her genitals obscured by a conveniently aligned elbow. …a very long, straight-faced and weirdly morbid drama, that tries to make up for itself with some pretty extreme and nauseating violence. …[2/5]
Christopher Hooton, Independent
…Jennifer Lawrence flounders in atrocious ‘Red Sparrow’… there’s little to recommend “Red Sparrow”—a throwback to old Hollywood in its belief that gratuitous rape and violence are the best way to create a heroine with backbone… [1/4]
Sara Stewart, New York Post
…A pervy premise and top-flight cast yield a mixed-bag spy flick… Francis Lawrence's “Red Sparrow” sometimes seems to target the sort of Jennifer Lawrence fan who feels the recent “Mother!” didn't pay sufficient attention to the star's lightly clothed curves. …“…Sparrow” seems likely to attract a fairly large audience but leave few moviegoers fully satisfied. …
John DeFore, The Hollywood Reporter
…Jennifer Lawrence gives a star performance… Sparrows. As presented, they are undercover prostitutes from hell. …The movie is a thriller, but it’s also a kind of sexualized nightmare… Lawrence makes her nakedness dramatic…
Owen Gleiberman, Variety
…offers lots of sex and violence… a big, sprawling and unapologetically nasty spy drama, one more rooted in character, sex and violence than action beats… “Red Sparrow” is a grim piece of work. It is less an action thriller than a borderline erotic horror show, a cold-blooded and often vicious espionage drama that sustains itself through twists, turns and periodic bouts of uncommon onscreen cruelty. …
Scott Mendelson, Forbes
…perverse… strange, yet often flatly directed, film that boasts surprisingly extreme sex and violence but also a wealth of bad accents… [3/5]
Benjamin Lee, The Guardian [UK]
…Neither intelligent enough to be involving nor fun enough to be trashy, this is a movie that would only work if it were a little worse or a lot better. ‘Red Sparrow’ is the sort of sumptuous, globe-trotting production that takes us to the Bolshoi, Budapest and London—not to mention the aforementioned “whore school,” where would-be spies are trained to be both deadly and seductive—but it’s the sort of listless affair where it’s easy to tune out and start noticing locations from other movies. …
Alonso Duralde, The Wrap
“Red Sparrow” betrays Jennifer Lawrence… a morose and violent movie that looks good but never seems to be making too much of an effort. …Her evolution from scared ballerina just trying to help her mother to a trainee willing to stand nude and commit sex acts in front of a class is jarring… It’s all very gritty, but it adds up to fairly little in the end. …
Joey Magidson, Awards Circuit
Comments from non-viewers
Negative—Previews made “Red Sparrow” look like an espionage thriller. Was going to see it, but read this review and will pass. Thank you for the informed warning and for not wasting two hours and twenty minutes and change!
—Tori, age 40+ (USA)
Negative—What exactly is this filth? The only real purpose this movie truly serves is to give Jennifer Lawrence another opportunity to show her naked, mentally disturbed self.
—Johnny, age 17