Red Sparrow

At the Cinemark


Grade: C

So, Katniss, who knew you’d grow up to be a lethal Russian seductress?

But, with all due respect, Katniss, I liked you better as the girl who stepped in front of her sister and pulled arrows from her quill to fight for justice.

Mission accomplished, Jennifer Lawrence. You’ve shocked us.

Now, having checked off that box, how about following in the footsteps of Katharine, Helen and Meryl, and returning to roles that enlighten us.

“The Red Sparrow” is a throwback Cold War drama set in the modern world. It’s a Mad Magazine spy-versus-spy thriller about a Bolshoi ballerina named Dominika who suffers a career-ending injury. She’s now broke, a frustrated woman with nothing left to lose and a mother to support.

Her uncle Vanya offers the beautiful dancer a way out: become a special Russian Sparrow: a spy, who uses her sexy body as a weapon.

Dominika feels coerced, but she accepts. She’s sent to “spy school” where Sparrows are molded by The Matron.

Sparrows are Russian patriots who learn to seduce their clients in order extract secrets. Lady Sparrows are taught to “give the men what they want,” no matter what the request and no matter how unattractive the client. A ruthless instructress forces them to practice dehumanizing tricks in front of the class.

Balk, and you’ll be called on every day until you consent.

To her credit, the Lawrencian Sparrow does balk on occasion, but not always. Sometimes she strips and dares the man to do what he wants. She’s always in control, even while accommodating demeaning demands.

Once a sparrow graduates, she’s sent on a top secret high-stakes flight to bring glory to the Kremlin.

In some ways, the “Red Sparrow” resembles the raw Swedish thriller “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” Clearly, Jennifer Lawrence is channeling her inner Lisbeth Salander as she weaves her way through a spider-web of intrigue. Sadly, the story and the writing aren’t as captivating as “Tattoo.”

We’re never sure who’s the cute bunny or who’s the deadly mole until the final scenes -- and, even then, we wonder if we’re being played.

In fairness, the final act of this story is quite compelling as the Red Sparrow concludes her flight by slipping behind enemy lines. Is she an agent or a double agent or just a woman who wants money to support her mom?

Can’t say I cared much. The only convincing reason to see “Sparrow” is to watch Lawrence spread her wings and fly into an unexpected sexy territory. But even that grows old.

This sparrow needs a new nest.