The Bock’s Office: ‘Red Sparrow’ a spy flick that never fully takes flight | CraigDailyPress.com

The Bock’s Office: ‘Red Sparrow’ a spy flick that never fully takes flight

Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) seduces CIA Agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) in "Red Sparrow." The movie is about an injured Russian dancer recruited into a specialty spy program.

With the prevalence of Mother Russia in today’s headlines, it’s only natural that moviegoers would remain wary of the country that’s long been a thorn in the side of the United States. Still, even the most paranoid patriot would have difficulty swallowing the plot of “Red Sparrow.”

Bolshoi ballerina Dominika Egorova (Jennifer Lawrence) is the pride of modern-day Russia as one of the nation’s most skilled dancers. Her career on the stage helps her support her ailing mama (Joely Richardson), but when she endures a massive injury, their futures are thrown off course.

Once she’s healed, Dominika is approached by her Uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts) to take on a new line of work — espionage.

She is ultimately indoctrinated into a special program for attractive and physically talented young adults known as Sparrows, who wish to serve their country through the art of seducing and gaining the trust of foreign agents.

Dominika proves not only adept but formidable among her cohorts and is given the assignment of tracking down and winning over a member of the CIA (Joel Edgerton) who infuriated the Russian government with his collaboration with a native spy.

Though she has no hesitation about shadowing him, the more she learns about the situation, the more her own life is in danger.

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You can’t say that Lawrence doesn’t commit as a Mata Hari for the 21st century, as Domeinika channels her rage at her life’s alterations into being a commanding sexual presence. Sure, you can train in picking locks all you want, but if you can’t maintain power over someone clothed while being in the buff, you’ve got no business being in the spy game.

And the accent — about 90 percent there…

Edgerton doesn’t have much to offer as American intelligence agent Nate Nash, whose royal botching of a meeting with his mysterious contact sets in motion an international incident. Also, it’s kind of embarrassing that someone with this much background in the CIA takes this long to realize a sexy blonde who suddenly integrates herself into his life might not have his best interests at heart.

Schoenaerts is a perfect likeness of a young Vladimir Putin as the man who gets Dominika into this mess, a middle management type for the Russkies willing to leverage his niece to move up the ladder and impress his superiors (Ciaran Hinds, Jeremy Irons)

Family is everything, right?

Charlotte Rampling has perhaps the best showing as the humorless head of the Sparrow department, destroying any sense of modesty her pupils may have in the hopes of creating weapons as deadly as they are gorgeous.

To be fair, we’d all probably rather watch attractive twentysomethings as spies than those in middle age, but the kind of “education” these kids get is one step away from ludicrous. The most realistic part of the experience is the fact that Dominika’s standout performance winds up getting her assaulted in the shower by a jealous male classmate with the onus of blame ultimately landing on her once she beats him mercilessly.

If you were under the impression this was a tale of female empowerment, there’s a long list of better examples even though Lawrence tries her best to fit into the Strong Female Lead archetype.

When eroticism is such a crucial part of the story, it doesn’t help to have so many scenes that either make you cringe or roll your eyes, with framing by director Francis Lawrence — no relation, though he did direct J-Law in multiple “Hunger Games” movies” — just laughable.

For that matter, describing the finale as anticlimactic feels doubly appropriate given all the awkward sexual content that precedes it.

Dreadfully overlong and never striking the serious tone it seeks, “Red Sparrow” is too weighed down by disbelief to ever lift off even with Lawrence’s star power.

And, if you’re wondering why so few Russian actors are in dominant roles, all you need to do is watch to know they wouldn’t want to lend their names to such a mess.

“Red Sparrow,” rated R

Rating: 2 out of 4 stars

Running time: 140 minutes

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schoenaerts and Jeremy Irons

Now playing at Steamboat Springs’ Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas.