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Review: 'Red Sparrow'

Jennifer Lawrence plays a Russian ballerina, when an incident changes her life into the spy industry.

I am always up for a new Jennifer Lawrence film, whatever the story. Ever since breaking through the blockbuster world in The Hunger Games, Lawrence has gone for some very ambitious projects whilst still being on the mainstream scene.

Her most recent project was in the very divisive Mother!, which I enjoyed immensely and became one of my favourites of last year. After seeing that, I was confident Lawrence would be up for doing any outlandish story.

With this one, the trailers did suggest the potential for some aspects to be out of the norm. The early buzz from America suggested many talking points, which just intrigued me even more.

I'm still a bit unsure as to what to make of this film. Thankfully, in terms of the talking points I was anticipating, it certainly had me thinking.

I think Jennifer Lawrence was as captivating and committed as you could be with the type of character she was given. She really goes all-out with this one. However, her Russian accent was a bit inconsistent. But as her accent was a subtle one, it never felt like a major negative.

I still love it that Lawrence continues to choose very challenging films, whether or not they work out in the box office sales. I will still be interested in what she does next.

Joel Edgerton was pretty solid in this one. He's a very capable actor that I like in most of his films. This was nothing exceptional, but not one to criticise over.

I was happy to see Matthias Schoenaerts lead the way in the supporting roles in this, and he continues to show that he is a great actor that I don't think is used enough, especially in big films.

Charlotte Rampling had a scary stone-cold presence about her throughout the short amount of screentime she had.

Sadly, I felt Jeremy Irons was underused in this for someone of his stature. He has a more inconsistent accent than Lawrence and I'm not sure why he was cast in this to be honest. I could probably say the same for Ciaran Hinds, who is in this even less.

I think the films strongest aspect came from its tone and production design. It has a pretty stylish look, especially in its action and violence, which was accompanied well by its cinematography.

The level of brutality in the violence and awkward moments in certain scenes would almost make you think you were watching a Paul Verhoeven erotic thriller. You could say it's like Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy meets Showgirls, which is a comparison I never thought would be created.

Thankfully, I felt none of the violence felt glorified. But I would not be surprised if some pathetic articles are written complaining about that content in our age of trying to not offend anyone and everyone.

With saying that, its biggest strength could also be its strongest negative. This is what is going to make or break the crowd.

A couple of other problems to speak of, is I think a lot of people will be unsure of where the central characters allegiances lie. That alone could be hard for a lot of people to get invested with the rest of the story.

It also remind me a lot of those Cold War spy thrillers, a lot of them had slow pacing and it shows in its unnecessary two hours 20 minutes duration. However, it only started to lag for me as we got into the second half. So if the first half can grip you, then you should be fine with the rest.

Those parts are what is preventing me from giving this a strong review. However, the film itself is good enough to fairly respectable rating.

The first half is pretty solid. It opens up well, the story moves along nicely and it sets you up well for the second half. After that, the momentum started to slow down. Thankfully, the ending had some nice twists and has a solid pay-off.

I think if the writing department concentrated more on the psychological side of our main character's new origins, then this might be quite a memorable spy thriller that is also a thinking-piece.

This could make a great book, as I can tell there will be a lot of writing dedicated to the internal thoughts of Lawrence's character.

But I think the biggest reason for this film to not be as strong as it should be, is that the unsure nature of our main character. We can't tell if we should be supporting her, or if we should be sympathizing, empathizing or something else.

The story is intriguing, I liked its style and its fearless execution of not holding back on the wince-inducing moments. But to be honest, I think it will be difficult for a lot of people to know which characters to root for at all.

On an interesting final note, I can see why some people may label this as the origin movie to the Black Widow from the Marvel Cinematic Universe that we'll probably never get.

Rating: 7/10

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