Plot: Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) was a world class ballerina for the Bolshoi Ballet, but a tragic accident injured her leg and ended her career. As the ballet was her sole source of income, she finds herself in a tough spot, especially since the ballet also provided her housing and medical care, which covered both Dominika and her troubled mother. Her uncle is a government official and offers her a chance to secure medical care for her mother, if she will be an operative on a single mission and swap out cell phones from a high profile suspect. But the situation turns lethal and the suspect is killed instead, which leaves Dominika as a witness, a liability. But her skills are obvious, so she is offered the chance to either die or become a Sparrow, an elite level operative trained to carry out dangerous, high skill missions. When she is tasked to gain the trust of an American CIA agent however, the mission becomes more complicated than anyone could have expected…
Entertainment Value: Although it does run a little long, Red Sparrow is a well crafted, fun thriller that has some good performances and even some splashes of exploitation to spice things up. The narrative is an interesting one and takes a lot of twists and turns, as you’d expect from a movie of this kind, given that everyone involved is an operative or some kind of government official. Dominika is a dynamic main role, as she has such natural charisma and sharp instincts, which are then sharpen to a fine edge by the sparrow program. She is tough to read, as she has a sociopathic presence at times, but can also come off as sweet and vulnerable. In other words, she is just as a sparrow should be, as you can’t tell if she is going to comfort you or cut your throat. Jennifer Lawrence turns in a great performance as Dominika, bringing across that strong survival instinct, but never dropping all of the emotional depth, she buries it when she needs to, just as the role requires. Joel Edgerton is passable, but seems in over his head with the rest of the cast, so he is a liability here at times. The supporting cast is quite good though, with a lot of familiar talent on the roster. The pace is an issue, as some scenes feel like filler and the movie runs a little too long, but I found these to be minor concerns. In the end, Red Sparrow is a fun, twisty thriller that has some good performances and impressive visuals.
This movie has some nakedness, but not as much as you might think, given that sparrows are trained in the sexual arts. A few topless scenes are sprinkled around, as well as full frontal male nudity in one sequence. The nudity is brief in all cases and the sex scenes aren’t graphic, while most of the naked flesh is featured in cold, sterile fashion, not erotic intent. A little blood, but it is all aftermath stuff, as in we don’t see the violence happen on screen. In a torture scene, a skin graft device is used to peel off layers of flesh, but we don’t see this ourselves. Just the motions and then later we see the skin wounds, but no direct violence. A few other scenes use this same approach, so while there is some bloodshed, it is more implied than shown. The writing here is solid, but the fun comes from all the double crosses, manipulation, and such, so not a lot of big, fun lines in this one. But Dominika has some memorable moments, while the sparrow training also has some cool, if sociopathic mantras. Red Sparrow has a creepy vibe at times, but falls mostly within the usual suspense/thriller realm and never gets that out of control.
Overall Insanity: 2/10