Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘Red Sparrow’ equal parts twisty, twisted

Updated March 2, 2018 - 2:17 pm

Students receive training in psychological manipulation and seduction. “You must learn to love on command,” they’re told. And at any time, they may be called upon to perform a sexual act in front of the rest of the class.

A finishing school for “Bachelor” contestants? Nope. It’s State School Four, training ground for the young men and women who’ll use their bodies in any way the Russian government deems fit, in “Red Sparrow,” the adults-only spy thriller that’s equal parts twisty and twisted.

Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is living the (relatively) good life in Moscow as a famed ballerina with the Bolshoi until she gruesomely snaps her leg. Three months later, her late father’s brother, Uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), shows up with an offer. The apartment that Dominika shares with her ill mother, as well as their medical care, is paid for by the Bolshoi. Now that she can no longer dance, they’ll be taken away. As a deputy director of the foreign intelligence service, Vanya can take care of both — so long as Dominika helps him with a mission.

That favor turns out to be way more intense than Dominika expected. Once it’s completed, she’s presented with a choice: Enter the undercover Sparrow program or die.

“Your body belongs to the state,” Matron (Charlotte Rampling) tells Dominika at State School Four. With its drab gray uniforms and “Hunger Games” levels of manipulation, it feels like the sort of institution in which Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson) might have spent her formative years before becoming Black Widow in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Once Dominika’s training is complete, Uncle Creepy has her tasked with getting close to CIA operative Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) by any means — emphasis on any — necessary. Once she gains Nash’s trust, her orders are to identify the mole he has inside Russian intelligence. If Dominika doesn’t produce the intended results, or produce them in a timely enough fashion, she’ll be murdered.

“Red Sparrow” is the fourth consecutive collaboration, following the final three “Hunger Games” installments, director Francis Lawrence has had with Jennifer Lawrence (no relation). Adapted by Justin Haythe (“A Cure for Wellness”) from the first in a series of novels by Jason Matthews, who spent 33 years with the CIA, the movie feels like the launching pad for another Jennifer Lawrence franchise.

Much like the spies themselves, the filmmakers keep many of the plot developments on a need-to-know basis. Viewers never can be certain if there’s an honest attraction between Dominika and Nash or if one or both of them are being manipulated.

That level of sophistication, and the need to really pay attention, make “Red Sparrow” feel far more like a grown-up September release than one hitting theaters in early March.

Regardless of the month, “Red Sparrow” is most definitely for grown-ups — and not just because younger viewers would be too distracted trying to figure out what a floppy disk is. (I remember floppy disks well, but I lost several minutes of the plot while grasping for a reason they’d be used in a contemporary movie.)

“Red Sparrow” traffics in nightmarish levels of abuse and torture. I’ve seen terrible things — heck, I’ve seen Hilary Swank have sex with Tommy Lee Jones by a campfire in 2014’s “The Homesman” — and I still wanted to look away.

Without spoiling much of anything, similar to Katniss Everdeen, Dominika turns her perceived entrapment into a weapon.

The fact that she truly will embrace any means necessary to get what she wants gives her a type of feminism that couldn’t be more 2018.

Even if that 2018 still employs floppy disks.


Movie: “Red Sparrow”

Running time: 139 minutes

Rating: R; strong violence, torture, sexual content, language and some graphic nudity

Grade: B

Now playing: At multiple locations

Contact Christopher Lawrence at or 702-380-4567. Follow @life_onthecouch on Twitter.

Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas art exhibit
Artists from Cirque du Soleil contribute art to Las Vegas gallery exhibit
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with blooming jasmine tea
Red Plate on the Las Vegas Strip serves a cocktail made with jasmine tea
Benny the Ice Skating Dog
Benny is a Las Vegas Labrador who was rescued by former pro skater Cheryl Del Sanyo, and trained to ice skate. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Nevada State Museum
The Nevada State Museum of Las Vegas, located at the Springs Preserve, covers all eras of the state, from prehistoric to today.
Throw a better dinner party
Cash appears at Baseball Winter Meetings
Lights FC mascot Cash plays the electronic drums at the EZ Inflatables’ booth on Tuesday at the Baseball Winter Meetings trade show at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.
5 albums to soundtrack your holiday gatherings in style
1. Various Artists, “Holidays Rule," with Rufus Wainwright, The Shins, Calexico and more. 2. Various Artists, “We Wish You a Metal Xmas and a Headbanging New Year," with Lemmy Kilmister, Alice Cooper, Chuck Billy and others. 3. Various Artists, “Christmas on Death Row," featuring Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg to name but a few. 4. Bright Eyes, “A Christmas Album.” 5. Various Artists, "The Motown Christmas Album." (Jason Bracelin/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Inside the kitchen at Springs Preserve
The staff of Divine Events do party preparation in the kitchen at Divine Cafe at Springs Preserve. With nine parties the following day, this is a particularly busy time for the crew. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
WinterFest in Henderson.
Miss Rodeo America Fashion Show
The 28 women contestants of Miss Rodeo America compete in a fashion show at the Tropicana on Dec. 7, 2018.
Tournament Of Kings Holiday Show
Wizards and warriors are ready for the holidays at Excalibur's Tournament of Kings Holiday Dinner Show.
Take a dive with the Silverton mermaids
A visit to the Silverton Casino Hotel is not complete without taking in the popular, and very unique, mermaid show.
Cowboys and western aficionados can buy virtually anything at Cowboy Christmas
Vegas Golden Knights Christmas Display
In the Las Vegas Valley, the chances of getting a white Christmas are slim. But this year, you can have a “Knight” Christmas. A Henderson resident has a Christmas lights display that is synchronized to the entrance music for the Golden Knights. GG Misa’s Knights light show is played every 30 minutes from 5 to 10 nightly. His light show consists of two songs: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and the entrance music, “Le Castle Vania,” from the movie “John Wick.” The display is located at 730 Bollons Island St. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Reivew-Journal)
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez is Just in Time For Repeal Day And Christmas
Holiday Hooch At El Cortez Is Just In Time For Repeal Day And Christmas. Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal
TV's LGBT superheroes
Green Valley Ranch's Winter's Village
The Mob Museum
Best Friend Menu Reveal Wednesday
Chef Roy Choi tells us what to expect from Wednesday’s Facebook Live Menu Reveal for his new Park MGM restaurant Best Friend. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Quick Chat With Criss Angel
James D. Gish and Susan Anton rehearse
Susan Anton will be special guest at James D. Gish’s holiday concerts Dec. 7 at Summerlin Library and Dec. 9 at Clark County Library. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bellagio Winter Wonderland
"Majestic Holiday Magic" at the Bellagio Conservatory.
Underwater Santa At The Silverton
Santa takes a dive Sunday, December 2, at the Silverton Casino Hotel. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Cowabunga Bay Christmas Town
Las Vegas Natural History Museum
Las Vegas Natural History Museum, which opened in 1991, has exhibits of mechanical dinosaurs and taxidermied animals, along with live snakes, fish and sharks. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Magical Forest Lights
Cirque Du Soleil Performers Team Up For New Show "Kinekt"
Through dance, acrobatics and aerial arts, “Kinekt” tells a story all too familiar to modern families: how to maintain a human connection in the digital age. (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ethel M Holiday Cactus Garden
The Pinball Hall of Fame in Las Vegas
The Pinball Hall of Fame was created by Tim Arnold and opened in 2006. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Jump! The Ultimate Dog Show at Springs Preserve in Las Vegas
Trainer Lou “Mack” McCammon guides several rescue dogs through a series of tricks and jumps two shows a day weekends through December at the Springs Preserve in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like