RATING: 3.5 out of 5

3.5 Robert Downey Heads

“Red Sparrow” is directed by Francis Lawrence and stars Jennifer Lawrence (hindi siguro sila magkamag-anak) as prima ballerina Dominika Egorova. After a gruesome injury leaves her with a bleak and uncertain future, she’s forced to go into Sparrow School, a brutal and sadistic secret intelligence service of the Russian government that trains them to be undercover spies. The movie doesn’t offer edge-of-your-seat action sequences so if that’s the kind of movie you’re expecting, you’d better look somewhere else. “Red Sparrow” is a tension-filled espionage thriller that still manages to be original despite having similarities to other entries in the genre.

Jennifer Lawrence is an award-winning actress for good reason and though the role doesn’t require her to deliver an Oscar-worthy performance, her considerable talents are on display here. Beautiful, seductive, and charming, she’s the ultimate femme fatale and these are the kinds of roles that she’s born to do. But there’s a fly floating on this expensive glass of champagne: she can’t really pull off a convincing Russian accent. I’m not sure if the movie was shot chronologically but there were certain scenes early in the film where she just gives up on the accent altogether. It gets better during the latter parts of the movie (pero siguro dahil nasasanay ka na lang sa kanya more than her actually nailing it.) As good as the performance was, the accent can get to be distracting. Charlotte Rampling, Jeremy Irons, and Joel Edgerton do well in supporting roles.

jennifer lawrence and joel edgerton in RED SPARROW.jpg
I don’t know how any man can manage to not spontaneously combust when you’re that close to Jennifer Lawrence and she’s looking at you like that.

One thing that I think spy movies often suffer from is a convoluted plot and “Red Sparrow” is no different. I’m not sure which spy film started the trend of leaving the audience in the dark for most of the film and then having a big reveal in the final act. But a lot of them (from the first “Mission Impossible” to Charlize Theron’s “Atomic Blonde”) have been doing that. I guess they do it because the nature of spies is to be secretive? I guess that should make sense, right? But that’s a huge risk to take because you’re banking on the payoff in the final act to compensate for the parts of the film that audiences probably didn’t enjoy. No matter how good the ending is, you’re still left with a movie with a weak second act.

Personally, I enjoyed the first parts of the film especially up to the point where Jennifer Lawrence goes to Sparrow School for training. Instead of seeing a montage showing how they’re physically trained ala Rocky Balbao, you get an insight to the psychology of espionage and how these spies are developed to be cold-hearted and calculating. The ending was great as well. The ending has a feeling of inevitability but it’s still satisfying once it happens. I just didn’t like the lead up to it.

charlotte rampling in RED SPARROW.jpg
Charlotte Rampling plays the head of the Sparrow School. Think of her as an R-rated Ms. Minchin.

But it has to be said: “Red Sparrow” is not for the faint of heart and the easily repulsed. There are multiple scenes all throughout the movie that will make you look away. I consider myself as someone who doesn’t get shocked easily by the things I see in movies. But even though I managed to keep my eyes glued to the screen, I had to do it while cursing under my breath and with the facial expression of someone who has just been kicked in the nuts. What’s the scene in question? Let’s just put it this way, it’s not everyday you get to see someone na literally binabalitan ng buhay tapos ilalatag sa mesa yung balat niya na parang beef tapa. Sige, process mo muna yang image na yan. Saya di ba?

You’d have to wonder though, what is it with movies about ballerinas and these “color + bird” name combinations? Black Swan, Red Sparrow. Pag nagkaron ba tayo ng Pinay na ballerina sa movies tatawagin nating “Pugong Itim”? Huwag na lang siguro parang ang sama e. Let’s leave these things to Jennifer Lawrence and her “Russian” accent.

RED SPARROW is now showing in cinemas.

All photos courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

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