After a career-ending injury, Russian ballerina Dominika becomes a seductive spy in Red Sparrow, a Francis Lawrence-directed film based on Jason Matthews' novel. Starring Jennifer Lawrence, it's a bloody affair that might not be worth its 2.5-hour run time, based on what critics are saying. It had a 52% positive rating among critics, and a slightly higher one from audiences:
- Peter Howell doesn't recommend it. At the Toronto Star, he calls Red Sparrow "the anti-007" in which "the sex is rape by any name, the tech is ancient floppy disks and the fighting is artless and bloody." Additional drawbacks are an "overly plotted screenplay," and Lawrence's "dodgy" Russian accent, "which approaches parody," Howell writes. Overall, it's "a brutal, muddled and dispiriting watch."
- Manohla Dargis disagrees, applauding Lawrence's ability to "slip into a role as if sliding into another skin." She delivers "a serviceable accent," but it's "her absolute ease and certainty that carry you through Red Sparrow," a "preposterously entertaining" film, Dargis writes at the New York Times, pointing out how rare it is to see a female character be the victim and perpetrator of "startling" violence.
- "With Cold War tensions rising again in real life, Red Sparrow feels of this time in a cool way, but only Lawrence's spy is memorable in this so-so operation," writes Brian Truitt at USA Today. "There's so much good stuff"—Dominika is "a fascinating study" and Lawrence "fits the role like a new pair of pointe shoes"—"but it never jells in a satisfying way." The film is also too long and a "hard watch due to its brutality," Truitt writes.
- Lawrence "gives her all," but it's not enough for Mark Kennedy, either. "What really drives Dominika is never very clear" and she ends up "like a reflection of the film itself, getting flatter and more boring by the minute," he writes at the AP. He also criticizes the "muddled" story and "cartoon violence," perhaps best exhibited in a scene involving the peeling of skin. "That might be more fun than sitting though Red Sparrow," he writes.
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