There is a saying on Broadway, when a musical is bad, you come out humming the scenery.

The same can be said for terrible movies like Francis Lawrence’s (“The Hunger Games”) importable, Russian/American pseudo-spy thriller, “Red Sparrow.” You come out humming the torture methods.

I won’t waste your time as brutally as I did mine as by watching it, by giving you an entire rundown. If you haven’t seen it yet and hopefully, you have not, it may well be gone soon.

I came to see if the rumors about the movie and one of my favorite actors, Jennifer Lawrence, were true. Sadly, they were. Her performance was, as they say, phoned in, and as it was in Russian, probably hacked. So sad.

Jennifer plays Dominika Egorova, a star with what I assume is the Bolshoi Ballet.

In a big opening night for her, her male dancer in a badly performed grand jeté lands squarely on Dominika’s leg, fracturing it beyond successful repair.


Now, with a sick mother to care for and a Bolshoi provided apartment to hold onto, Dominika (I will heretofore refer to her as Jen, as Dominika takes too long, and I’ve already wasted enough time.) allows her uncle, a KGB exec, to enroll her in the exclusive and highly secretive spy school for “Red Sparrows.”

Here, in a mountain school, she learns how to use her body, wet lips, smoky glances and bad English to seduce and corrupt the enemy wherever he or she is found.

In an hourlong rundown of the school’s curriculum, she is guided by the Soviet “matron macabre” played by the late Charlotte Rampling. (Charlotte is still alive; she just looks like “the late Charlotte Rampling.”)

Jen is raped a few times; forced to perform sexual nuances; stand nude before the stone-faced class; tortured and taught to torture, including identifying all the instruments of torture and male body parts. She learns to pick locks and eat oysters in a seductive manner.

In the course of her work in the field, she will dye her brown hair blonde and forevermore wear bangs, keep a stone-face expression and speak in seductive whispers. In fact, everyone in the movie speaks in seductive whispers, even the master torturer, who shows her an instrument that peels off a subject’s skin, piece by piece.

Her first mission is, of course, that she must find and seduce the American agent (Joel Edgerton) who for some reason is allowed to walk the streets of Moscow disguised as a Russian working man. I think I got that right. It was almost impossible to follow all the instructions, not because they were in Russian, but because the sound track is so softly rendered, and the actors speak in such seductive whispers. Even the street cleaners, waiters and street car conductors speak so.


I will close by listing the really great actors who, purely for money and keeping up their Screen Actor’s insurance, allowed themselves to be immersed in humiliation.

Rampling, who has seen and performed in better stuff in days past, struts around her classroom in Soviet khaki and big brown boots and seems to enjoy Jen.

OMG, is that Jeremy Irons as General Korchnoi, the maître d’hôtel of the operation? Yes it is.

Of course, he’s always been open about trash work for money, and is always the very best at doing it. I forgive him, especially for the really cool tinted glasses he wears throughout.

The noted Irish actor Ciarán Hinds is here as Zakharov, who sits behind a desk for the entire film.

Scott Alexander Young appears as a Russian officer. Too bad Sig Ruman is dead: He would have been awesome.


I will say Jo Willem’s cinematography was superb and watching the scene changes kept me awake.

James Newton Howard is listed for music, but I could swear it sounded like Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

As for director Francis Lawrence’s pedestrian direction, it’s time to go back to bows and arrows.

And to think I endured all of this because I thought I was in Theater 5 to see “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle,” and was too tired to get up. Getting old is no fun.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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