We’ve made a lot of jokes about how FOX’s Red Sparrow is pretty much the solo Black Widow movie we’ve never gotten, but it really is, in some strange way.  True, the film is based on a book by former CIA operative Jason Matthews that was published in 2014, but seriously.

If you see this movie, be prepared for brutality.  Be prepared for nudity and rape themes, be prepared for garratts and dermal laser peeling, but also for cunning and strength. There is nothing gentle about the film, there is a terrible beauty to some of Jennifer Lawrence‘s scenes.  And if you watch it with the right attitude, it’s the story of how Natasha Romanov met Clint in Budapest.

Remember the line in Avengers when Nat says to Hawkeye “yeah, just like in Budapest” and he responds “you and I remember Budapest very differently?”  Well, we *kind* of get that back story here, although the two have nothing to do with each other.  At all.

A former Bolshoi Prima Ballerina is turned into an elite spy. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

Our main character Dominika Egorova (Lawrence) was a prima ballerina at the Bolshoi until an accident shattered her leg.  Turns out of course that it WASN’T an accident, and Dominika’s uncle Vanya (yes, seriously) Matthias Schoenaerts (who should totally play young Putin) proves it to her.  She takes matters into her own hands and beats the culprits with her crutch, pretty great moment really.

Vanya sees this as an opportunity, sends her on a mission, and recruits her into the Sparrow program, using her ill mother as his collateral.  The Sparrows are taught how to identify their targets’ needs and provide them.

SCORE: 4 OUT OF 5, would see it again

The Good:

I obviously gave this a really high score. I won’t spoil the twists, but it’s written as well as any modern Bond film, perhaps even better.  The acting is really what makes this good- there really aren’t any moments you disbelieve the story you’re seeing, and this may be my favorite Lawrence film to date. The fights are good, believable, because this isn’t meant to be a hyper realistic thing, rather a more tangible “maybe this is what’s actually happening”.  If you thought Tinker Tailor was too slow and boring, maybe the 2 hour 24 minutes Red Sparrow won’t be for you.  I personally didn’t think it felt that long.

The Bad:

Can we stop with rape as a plot device.  Yes, much like how Disney kills parents to mature children, rape is used as a trope to make a woman’s righteous anger/revenge seeking believable.  Look man(s), as a woman I can get plenty pissed off without being held down and forcibly penetrated, so maybe the time for that tired and boring thing is past. Anytime you want to put that in a script, ask yourself, is there any other way she could get this pissed off/wounded without rape?  If the answer is no, get yourself a different fucking writer, and your box office returns will reflect better.

Enjoyable maybe is too strong a term, but I didn’t hate this film.  It’s beautifully shot, the cast is good, the script for the most part aside from a few truly melodramatic moments is good.  Atomic Blonde is still better, but a vastly different film.  This isn’t as actiony, this is definitely more a modern cold war slow burn spy drama.

Red Sparrow opens in theaters on Friday March 2nd.

ABOUT >> Mary Anne Butler
  • BIO >> Mary Anne Butler (Mab) is a reporter and photographer from San Francisco California. She is a lifelong geek, huge music nerd, occasionally cosplays at conventions, does Renaissance Faires, and in general lives the life of a True Believer. She may be short, but she makes up for it with a loud voice.
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