A case study on the career of Jennifer Lawrence would be an interesting one. She began her career as an extra and went on to pop up in various film and television projects until she hit it big with an Oscar nomination for her role in 2010’s “Winter’s Bone.” She followed up “Winter’s Bone” by landing one of Hollywood’s most coveted roles, that of Katniss Everdeen — the role she is known for and that is responsible for her meteoric rise to superstardom. Couple that with her central role among a new group of X-Men, a few more Oscar nominations (in addition to a win in 2013 for “Silver Linings Playbook”) and just like that, it seemed like Lawrence was unstoppable. As of late though, that has not been the case. Though still massive, the box office receipts at the end of the Hunger Games series began to wane, while Lawrence’s other projects started to miss the marks with both the critics and with me. “Passengers,” “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “mother!” have all been disappointments, and unfortunately for J.Law and anyone who watches this movie, “Red Sparrow” is no different.
For “Red Sparrow” Lawrence rehearsed both ballet and a Russian accent for a reported four months to better play the role of Dominika Egorova and for her reteaming with the director of the latter three Hunger Games films, Francis Lawrence. The premise of the film is simple enough. The protagonist is faced with a choice after a mid-performance injury forces her to leave the ballet company, and Dominika is roped into joining an elite group of young Russian spies known as “Sparrows.” Throughout her training and time as a sparrow, various issues arise and the path to freedom seems to become more difficult each day.
I’m afraid Lawrence wasted most of her time, as the final film comes across as muddled, cliche, confusing and unnecessarily graphic in a way that isn’t fun to watch. While you can tell she is trying her best, this is simply not the role for her, as it allows for none of her natural charisma to shine or really do much in the realm of action. This came as a bit of a shock to me, as I was expecting an off-brand Black Widow-type origin story in the vein of last year’s “Atomic Blonde.” Instead, the final film comes across as a B-quality, melodramatic, and unnecessarily convoluted spy thriller. The film contains far too many twists, almost all of which feel forced and can be expected. “Red Sparrow” also lacked a real action set piece of any type, which surprised me because the trailer made it feel like more of an action movie. Also missing from the film was a memorable score or any type of pointed dialogue that one would hope for from a spy movie. A movie with this type of budget (reportedly around $70 million) should not suffer from a lack of spectacle in the way it does.
In the beginning, you really feel for Lawrence’s character when she suffers her injury, but as things develop, the audience’s connection with Lawrence doesn’t seem to progress at all. While the film does a good job of creating moments of tension, overall the movie is a miss. The film’s directing comes across as flat and the movie just seems to trudge along to an ending that feels as if it’s forcing a square peg into a round hole. Hopefully, Lawrence will get on the same page as her agent soon and one of these days we will be back to seeing the J.Law of old. Until then, I would recommend you skip “Red Sparrow.”
Jacob Hales, Features Writer