Lawrence and Lawrence Fourth Collaboration Sees Diminishing Returns

Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton in Twentieth Century Fox’s Red Sparrow. Photo Credit: Murray Close.

Tell me if this sounds familiar: Jennifer Lawrence plays a strongwilled heroine who, to protect her family must endure the craziest of situations by volunteering to be a part of a state-sponsored government program. Once our hero is on the inside, she infiltrates and defeats the ominous state-sponsored government program to find her freedom.

Just so we’re clear, this review is about Red Sparrow and not The Hunger Games. Give or take a wig, bad accent, and nudity, it’s easy to make this mistake. For all the peacocking it does, Red Sparrow skews closer to young adult fare than anything resembling John Le Carre.

The film is a spy thriller with very little spy and absolutely no thriller. Jennifer Lawrence is a good actress, but she has crossed “The Rock” threshold. It no longer makes any difference what film Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is in, he’s essentially himself, not his character. “The Rock” was the main character of Baywatch and Jumannji: Welcome to the Jungle. The actress pairs well with David O. Russell because Lawrence is playing a character deep enough to work below “The Rock” threshold. This also could’ve been avoided if screenwriter Justin Haythe took one less surprise (and obvious) twist, added more to a paper-thin backstory for our main character, Katniss…err…Domenika.

The whole cast is extremely undeserved. Joel Edgerton is a good actor. There is no reason for his character to be a doddering fool with no charisma. AS A SPY! IN RUSSIA! His character is more unbelievable than a premier ballerina turned sex spy. And why is Jeremy Irons here? His role is a thankless job of scene-eating. Irons is better than that. It’s not like this is DC Films. Same with Matthias Schoenaerts. If he is the antagonist, I couldn’t tell. Also, a note: there are other women who can play evil and shrill besides Charlotte Rampling. There is no need to see her sleepwalk through scenes.

The Frances/Jennifer Lawrence duo is a good tandem, just not for this type of film. Lawrence, the director, has spent three films highlighting all the best qualities of Lawrence, the actor. Therein lies the problem. Red Sparrow has no real stakes. The audience knows Jennifer Lawrence is going to be Jennifer Lawrence, be it a spy, love interest, or heroine. Until she can find a role she can dive into, she’ll be even more typecast.


JP Spence

JP Spence is a writer, screenwriter, and improviser living in Los Angeles. He previously served as the media critic for the Topanga Messenger and as Editor-In-Chief for the LA Valley Star. You can find Josh @JP_Spence on twitter or at any press screening.

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