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Red Sparrow

Movie Review by Joan Ellis –

Red Sparrow

If Red Sparrow were a little less terrible, making fun of it might be an entertaining exercise. But because it is truly and inexplicably bad, there’s no fun to be had in writing about it. Here is one the twelve confusing paragraphs from the International Movie Data Base summary of the movie. Good luck.

“Dominika is removed earlier than expected to carry out a mission under her uncle and General Vladimir Korchnoi (Jeremy Irons). The target is an American CIA operative, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton). She is to find out the name of his Russian contact. She is placed in a rooming flat with Marta (Thekla Reuten) who also went to Sparrow school. Nate has convinced Dominika to become a double agent and work with the CIA.”

That’s just a hint of the dozens of characters we are expected to track during its exasperating length of two hours and twenty minutes. Audiences walk out shaking their heads after failing to follow the impossible puzzle. Listen up, Hollywood: You can’t ask any audience to sort through a crowd of characters with the implied command that they must know the importance of every single one.

The Sparrow School operates under the ice cold control of Matron (Charlotte Rampling) who is teaching women how to use their bodies as espionage tools. Because Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) needs money to support her ailing mother (Joely Richardson), she enrolls. After learning – by mistake – the identity of a double agent, she has no choice but to use her body as her tool for navigating the Russian/American spy underground.

The red sparrow is played by Jennifer Lawrence who has often won the hearts of audiences with her skill, her personality, and the marvelous voice that she can bend to all kinds of movie demands. In this story, that creative voice is reduced to a skilled monotone Russian accent that hides all her personality and skill. She moves through a complex world of espionage and sex with a heavy heart and many tears. She will be raped, beaten literally to pulp, vomiting from horror and naked through much of the story. She plays Dominika as well as anyone could but all this to support your mom is a thin premise.

In a fine gang of good male actors, the confusing script leaves us wondering which one is Jeremy Irons, or Joel Edgerton, or Matthias Schoenaerts. Huge casts with secondary parts defeat good stories.

We live in an era where there is nothing unusual about on-screen nudity or sex, but this movie raises the question of what has happened in our culture to make people want to watch vomit, rape, beating, and torture with a new tool that allows the torturer to literally skin his victim who is chained to a chair. The question always surfaces: Is it a reflection of our current culture or is it Hollywood creating a new one? At the very least, when your mother needs financial help, don’t become a red sparrow.

Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : RED SPARROW
Word Count: 499
Running Time: 2:20
Rating: R
Date: 9 March 2018

 

Kidnap

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis

Kidnap

How often does a movie pull you so deeply into the screen that you forget where you are? Try Kidnap. Call it a B movie as the reviews do, but then explain to me why it grabs an audience, holds it, and needs only one hour and twenty-one minutes to wrap them in fear that lasts long after leaving the theater. Maybe that’s the definition of a good B movie: many faults wrapped in emotional overkill. Let’s look.

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) has taken her adorable eight year old son Frankie (Sage Correa) to the amusement park for some fun. She answers her cellphone when she sees the call is from the lawyer defending her against her ex-husband’s suit for custody of their son. As she hangs up, she sees Frankie being hauled into a car. As Karla rushes to her Chrysler minivan, she drops her phone and loses her only way to summon help during the unfolding chase. She has only seconds to follow the turquoise car.

Whether it’s a good, bad, or mediocre movie to you, the theme goes to the heart of every mother’s deepest fear. We are given just enough time in the amusement park to see the love between Karla and her son. It’s right there that we begin to appreciate Halle Berry and Sage Correa.

Because the boy is whisked away so early, the movie falls entirely into the hands of Halle Berry who comes through in grand form. She drives at breakneck speed, causes pileups on highways, and slices across interstates. The fact that in reality none of this could happen matters not a bit.

Director Luis Prieto and writer Knate Lee wisely avoid following anything but Karla, and that brings up the only suspense lapse. Alone in her car without her phone, there can be no conversation so they have her say a prayer and reminisce a little. The effect? This is the only time the tension slows. The fuel of this story is adrenaline, and we don’t need to be relieved of our fear.

Halle Berry is so effective that we’re rooting for her through every single awful moment. Forget that none of the sudden plot changes could happen in real life. Not one of them is predictable or possible and each comes as a jolting surprise. It is the abduction itself that can and does happen in reality and that is what generates fear in the audience. So don’t waste time criticizing the ridiculous twists and turns. Just think about Frankie.

The best solution is to cheer this brave mother on and enjoy the cockeyed twists and dangers that challenge her at every turn. And remember that Halle Berry is convincing in all the incredible situations. This is a B movie? Of course, but I promise you will never figure out what’s coming next to make you slam your eyes closed and you can thank special effects and Halle Berry for that.

Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Film Title : Kidnap
Word Count : 501
Running time : 1:21
Rating : R
Date : 13 August 2017

 

This entry was posted on August 21, 2017, in Thriller.