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Movie review: “Red Sparrow” wastes good performances on a terribly boring film

Jennifer Lawrence attends the ”Red Sparrow” US Premiere at Alice Tully Hall on Feb. 26. Credit: Courtesy of TNS

“Red Sparrow” was directed by Francis Lawrence and stars Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons and Matthias Schoenaerts. Based on the novel of the same name by Jason Matthews, the film centers around a dancer turned Russian agent, or “Sparrow,” who is sent on a mission to the United States in order to find out who is leaking Russian information.

The cast gave me some hope, but the premise and trailer didn’t really get me all that excited to see this movie. Sure, spy movies can be great, but with “Atomic Blonde” being rather lackluster and tropes of the genre being used far too often, I entered the theater with minimal expectations for the film, but hoped to be pleasantly surprised. I was not.

The Good

Lawrence and Edgerton both gave very solid performances throughout this movie, and were able to often surpass the scripts they were given. The chemistry between these two worked very well, and Lawrence especially was able to shine in some of the harsher moments of “Red Sparrow.”

On shock factor, “Red Sparrow” was able to hold its own with some pretty graphic scenes that captured my attention. The torture scenes especially stood out as vivid and grotesque, and while the action remained at a minimum, these moments allowed for an increase in intensity and intrigue that often were not there.

The Bad

Sadly, even with a scene here and there to up the tension, “Red Sparrow” lacks nearly anything resembling a pulse. This movie is pretty much dead on arrival, with very little to prevent audience members from taking a snooze during its run time.

To make a film 139 minutes, a director must be confident that the time doesn’t go to waste. That’s the hope at least, but the pacing put on display by “Red Sparrow” would make waiting at the DMV feel like a brisk walk in the park. I swear I’ve read phone books that had more gripping plotlines than this film, as there is just nothing that makes me care about anything that these characters go through, even when they are at the brink of death.

As I said, the acting in the film is perfectly fine, but the screenplay the actors are given to utilize: yikes. Screenwriter Justin Haythe put the bare minimum into writing and developing most of these characters, for they all remain incredibly one-note and the dialogue shared between any two characters at any given time always happens to fall flat on its face.

Did I mention the plot is boring? Sure, the opening sequence is slightly different, and this film manages to be more disgusting than ones before it, but this lead character of Dominika, whose name I had to Google even though I saw this movie less than an hour prior to reviewing, brings absolutely nothing new to the table as she goes through the most obvious of character arcs imaginable.

The film tries to make this move of being sexy by using sex and seduction as a manipulation tool, but every attempt to do so comes across as clumsy and unrealistic. The premise of an intelligence agent using seduction over violence is actually interesting, but the execution of this decent idea is completely botched. Even “Atomic Blonde,” a movie I did not enjoy, utilized this better.


“Red Sparrow” is well acted and well shot, but poorly written, horrifically paced and tremendously underwhelming. The film managed to never gain my attention from start to finish, a feat that is almost difficult to accomplish since my short attention span usually can get invested in something. But no, I saw every punch “Red Sparrow” was ready to throw, and even with a few decent twists and turns at the end, there is almost nothing redeemable about a spy movie that is nearly an hour too long for its own good.

1.5 Stars


  1. Well as someone who actually read the book and just saw the movie, and having seen how incongruous many of the ratings are here on IMDb, I felt obliged to pass on a few notes. Frankly, I’m flabbergasted at the large number of low ratings – some weirdo rated it low as there was not ENOUGH nudity (clearly he must have wound up in the wrong theatre!), on the other end of the spectrum are the puritan nut-jobs who will denigrate an entire film because their hyper-active sensibilities are offended! Perhaps reading and understanding warning labels on movies would be useful to avoid future surprises – did the terms “brutal violence, sexual violence, disturbing content, and nudity” not give you a clue?
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