Historically, between Oscar Night on Sunday and Memorial Day weekend in late May, the pickings to find top quality movie releases are slim. With “Black Panther” destined to continue its box office dominance for several more weeks, don’t except next year’s Academy Award-worthy projects to appear on the big-screen until after Labor Day in September. In the meantime, passable movies and blockbuster action features will dominate. “Red Sparrow” is the perfect post-awards season attraction, a mind-numbing storyline with familiar cast members.
Jennifer Lawrence teams up with her “Hunger Games” film collection director Francis Lawrence (no relation) in a mysterious spy drama in “Red Sparrow.” Based on the 2015 novel by Jason Matthews, the film draws easy comparison to last year’s “Atomic Blonde,” depicting a modern game of cat and mouse between the United States vs. Soviet Union intelligence agencies.
An often naked, yet effective, Lawrence portrays a Russian world-class ballet dancer turned counterintelligence asset. Her Cold War opponent played by Joel Edgerton, the CIA’s point man charged to discover Soviet secrets. Together, their relationship gets complicated as deception and trust issues flourish into interesting movie watching. In what must be the actress’ most uncomfortable filmmaking scenes to date, Lawrence delivers as the Dominika Egorova character assigned to a Russian spook school known for producing seductive spies called “Sparrows.”
“Red Sparrow” is watchable entertainment with numerous plot twists to keep viewers guessing as to how things will turn out. The Australian Edgerton, who masterfully played the creeper in 2015’s “The Gift,” once again shines as a quiet accomplice to a film’s secretive reveal. Giving her due credit as well, Lawrence fascinates as she toys with the bad girl persona.
At times the film seems to overplay its “female bodies as weapons” mantra. An overindulgence in sexual and rape sequences earn a legitimate R rating but may still catch some viewers off-guard with its unsettling penchant for violence. Likewise, one particularly brutal torture scene stands out above others.
The film’s unsettling story keeps the audience off its feet until a well above-average ending ties up all loose narratives. And between now and the release of “Chappaquiddick” on April 6, this mystery thriller will have to suffice for movie lovers in this post-Academy Awards season.