Tag Archives: Russian

Red Sparrow

7 Mar


Plots within bloody plots fill this thinking person’s spy thriller that’s two parts “Atomic Blonde” and three-fifths “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Forget all the flap about the dress – Jennifer Lawrence is a big screen star. If there was any question (as after 2016’s sci-fi miscue, “Passengers”), “Red Sparrow” should squelch doubts. We all knew the outspoken actress could bring mettle and grit from the “The Hunger Games” series, but here, in this chilly bit of Cold War espionage rewarmed – and aptly so, given the Mueller probe – she takes it up a notch. Much must be delivered to the screen: ballet dancing, full frontal nudity (close enough) and a Russian accent, and Lawrence does it all convincingly so, at least for the most part. Not that she or the film are going to make off with an Oscar, but they may knock “Black Panther” from its box office roost, though the R rating makes that an extra tough go.

Steamy and ever shifting, “Red Sparrow” takes us back behind the curtain, ostensibly of Putin’s Russia, where the commoners live hand-to-mouth and at the mercy of the state. It’s there that Lawrence’s Dominika lives a cut above as the lead dancer of the elite Bolshoi Ballet, but just as we drink her in, up on the stage beguiling a packed house, a freak accident ends her career and she’s suddenly on the cusp of being evicted from her cozy pad and there’s no money to care for mum (Joely Richardson) who’s suffering some kind of illness. No worries, uncle Vanya (Matthias Schoenaerts), an intelligence officer, steps in and gives Dominika a “one-off” job that will solve her problems. All she’s got to do is lure an admiring fan and enemy of the state into a sting. The grand hotel where it all goes down, draped in red and gold, is regal and inviting; the mark, not so much. Needless to say, things veer off script, but in the end, Dominika gets it done. From there she’s in too deep – an intelligence liability, so to speak – so it’s either back to school or into the harbor. Continue reading

Best Foreign Language Film of 2014

29 Dec


December 27, 2014  |  4:05pm


In the Bible, Job suffers endlessly. God lets Satan take his children, his wealth and physically afflict him with no end in sight. It’s a test of faith, and a parable (or that rationalizing opium of the masses that Marx was so down on) as to why God allows such inequitable ills to wreak havoc on the faithful good. A similar ordeal faces the unfortunate Kolya (Aleksey Serebryakov) in director Andrey Zvyagintsev’sLeviathan. Kolya becomes the target of the corrupt mayor (Roman Madyanov, brilliantly conjuring up shades of Bob Hoskins in The Long Good Friday and current Russian President Vladimir Putin) in a northwestern Russian province, near the Finnish border. The unscrupulous magistrate desires Kolya’s land because of its strategic locale, situated between the sea and a broad waterway—and he’s more than willing to bend his official rule to legally wrest the holding. Continue reading