Red Sparrow treats Jennifer Lawrence nastily (and nudely)
RED SPARROW (MA15+)
Rating: two and a half stars (2.5 out of 5
Director: Francis Lawrence (I am Legend)
Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Jeremy Irons, Matthias Schoenaerts.
Beware of bad blood and broken wings
Is Jennifer Lawrence trying to tell us something? Should we call someone?
The brutally violent, overtly sexual thriller Red Sparrow marks the third film in a row where Lawrence has signed on as a whipping girl for much male-generated mistreatment.
First of all, there was Passengers (the one where Chris Pratt creepily wakes up Lawrence from her sleep pod during a long-haul space flight, and then tricks her into a dodgy dependent relationship).
Then came the debacle of Mother! (the one where Javier Bardem psychologically abuses Lawrence until she sets herself on fire).
Now here is Red Sparrow, and there is Lawrence repeatedly beaten, stabbed, stripped naked, tortured and sexually assaulted.
It is not a great look in this brave new era of #metoo for one of the world's leading actresses to keep choosing roles that depict her as a doormat. It's almost a throwback to the early days of the silents, where the women were only there to be tied to train tracks.
Based upon the best-selling novel by Jason Mathews, Red Sparrow carries the DNA of a gripping, if pulpy espionage potboiler.
When it isn't pressing as many pervy buttons as it can, the movie actually works up an intriguing take on a new Cold War, where the Russians already have a head start on their distracted American adversaries.
The action opens in Moscow, where ex-prima ballerina Dominika (Lawrence) has just been blackmailed by her manipulative uncle (Matthias Schoenaerts) into becoming an agent for a sinister secret intelligence unit of which he is the boss.
After being forced against her will to attend what she later describes as "a whore school," Dominika is sent to Budapest, where she will target her new array of sexual wiles at CIA spy guy Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton).
Dominika's job is to lure Nate into revealing the identity of a Russian mole who keeps leaking intel to the enemy. However, Nate, an experienced spook, is across this ruse from the get-go. His job is to recruit Dominika as a double agent.
What follows is very much a push-me-pull-you kind of affair, which somehow chews up almost two and a half hours of screen time in total.
The basic thriller stuff - though arguably a touch too over-complicated for its own good - has a way of getting you leaning forward in your seat.
However, the other dirty, damaging stuff - particularly the bone-breaking, flesh-piercing violence - keeps daring you to look at the floor and hope for the best.