Former CIA operative Jason Matthews novel Red Sparrow was hot property on release in 2013 and 20th Century Fox quickly optioned it.
With a screenplay written by American Hustle scribe Eric Warren Singer and directors Darren Aronofsky and David Fincher at one stage circling the project, one wonders what the adult spy thriller might have been… But wasn’t.
Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika, a promising ballerina who suffers a career ending injury. In order to continue supporting her sick mother she agrees to assist her Uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts) only to end up blackmailed into assisting the Russian intelligence agency he works for.
After being sent to a school for ‘Sparrows’ – code for sex-spy school – her first assignment is to keep tabs on CIA Agent Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) who has made contact with a mole in Moscow.
What follows is a film where Russian characters are played by American, British, Belgian, Dutch, German and Irish actors sporting abysmal accents over a punishingly long running time, secrets are sold to the Kremlin on fossilized floppy discs, and the sadistic sexual violence make Game Of Thrones look like it was produced by Disney.
Red Sparrow arrives helmed by director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants), with the screenplay re-written by Justin Haythe (A Cure for Wellness), as a film that desperately wants to be Tinker Tailor Sexy Spy yet unfortunately comes off as bargain-basement exploitation despite its $69-million-dollar price tag.