Prima ballerina Dominika Egorova faces a bleak and uncertain future after she suffers an injury that ends her career. She soon turns to Sparrow School, a secret intelligence service that trains exceptional young people to use their minds and bodies as weapons. Egorova emerges as the most dangerous Sparrow after completing the sadistic training process. As she comes to terms with her new abilities, Dominika meets a CIA agent who tries to convince her that he is the only person she can trust.
Red Sparrow pairs Jennifer Lawrence with Francis Lawrence for the fourth time, having worked together on the final three Hunger Games films. J-Law is coming off an audacious performance in the polarizing mother! and here is no exception as she once again holds nothing back in this gritty, grimy spy thriller. Lawrence proves again why she’s one of the best leading ladies in Hollywood as she demands the attention of the viewer at all times. Though her Russian accent dips in and out, Lawrence manages to deliver a striking performance as famed ballerina turned Russian spy.
The film features many grotesque moments where Lawrence is vulnerable and other scenes where she has the upper hand. The emotions of Dominika vary throughout and J-Law manages to capture them as best as possible. Joel Edgerton plays a CIA agent who gets caught up in the dangerous game Dominika is playing. Edgerton is always a delight, regardless of the film he’s in, though here we wish he had more to do. The character of Nash stays the same throughout the course of the film and never gets a moment to shine. Screen legends Jeremy Irons, Ciaran Hinds, and Charlotte Rampling all do fine work in their supporting roles despite the lack of depth from any of their characters. One of the standouts of the film, Matthias Schoenaerts plays the conniving uncle of Dominika who will stop at nothing to ensure he gets what he wants. His menacing glare and large stature is enough to rub viewers the wrong way.
Red Sparrow deals with a dark subject matter that might be too excessive for some viewers. Francis Lawrence doesn’t shy away from the graphic material, insisting on the gratuitous violence. The film swings for the fences many times as new twists and turns are introduced regularly. The convoluted story is never able to regain its balance due to its clichéd storytelling and one note characters. The film itself is beautiful, from the chilling cinematography to the exquisite locations. At 140 minutes, Red Sparrow features another memorable performance from Lawrence though it’s overshadowed by the tepid gruesomeness of the film.