Actress Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence reunite—Lawrence having previously directed three of the Hunger Games installments—in the spy thriller Red Sparrow. The result, in spite of a few rousing set pieces, is not nearly as thrilling or intriguing as one might expect given the previous track record of the director and star. The same problem that marred too many of the Hunger Games films helmed by Lawrence also plagues Red Sparrow. More specifically, a crushing tendency toward overlength serving only to blunt any lasting resonance the film might have had within its grasp. There are times in the film, when things come to a screeching halt, that the moniker might Dead Sparrow might have been more apropos. Apparently, Lawrence and his team of editors haven’t met a scene yet that they could shorten and it truly does the film a great disservice.

The title of the film refers to the Jennifer Lawrence character, a former ballerina named Dominika Egorova, whose dreams are shattered when a horrific accident puts an end to her promising career in the world of the performing arts. Wondering how she’s going to keep a roof over her head and food on the table, as she obviously has no discernible skills outside of the world of professional dance, things don’t look too promising. That is until her Uncle (Matthias Schoenearts) talks the former ballerina into signing up for school of the Sparrow variety, where students are taught how to sexually seduce their prey in order to extract whatever information is needed at any given time. Yep, you read that last sentence correctly. The recruits are sent to school to learn all the tricks of the sex trade. It makes one wonder, what with Dominika’s former training in ballet, why she couldn’t find better ways to utilize the muscles in her legs but I digress.

The movie piles on the sex and violence as Dominika attempts to locate a mole operating in the Russian government. In the midst of all this she connects with an American CIA agent (Joel Edgerton) and I’ll bet you can figure out what happens next. It all gets more and more ludicrous as its seemingly never-ending story slowly—and I do mean slowly—unfolds.

Lawrence gets points for attempting to squeeze as much juice as she can from the material but all the talent in the world isn’t going to stop audiences from checking their watches frequently and wondering why don’t they just get on with it. It’s a mystery that’s more interesting than most of what’s to be found in Red Sparrow.

This movie playing in Hickory as of Friday this week.
ImageL Jennifer Lawrence in Red Sparrow

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