Freeze Frame: “Red Sparrow” (R)

Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence has proven that she’s got the acting chops and personal charisma to elevate so-so material. That ability is sorely needed in the new suspense thriller, “Red Sparrow,” based on the novel by Jason Matthews.


Lawrence plays Dominika, a Bolshoi Ballet artist who suffers a career-ending injury. Her uncle, a Russian Intelligence agent, recruits her to become a sparrow, a secret agent that specializes in seducing targets. She has to decide whether or not to join forces with a CIA agent she’s fallen for, played by Joel Edgerton.


All of the elements for success are there, including a great cast, sharp production values, exotic locales and a twisty, suspenseful plot. But “Red Sparrow” is undone by a languid and lurching pace and the lack of any on-screen spark between Lawrence and Edgerton.


Lawrence re-teams with Francis Lawrence, who directed her in three of the four “Hunger Games” movies, but the magic that propelled that franchise is missing here. Lawrence is always watchable in this violent, sadistic and overlong thriller. But it’s just never gripping. “Red Sparrow” flutters, but never soars.


Also opening this week, “Midnighters” is a low-budget thriller about a partying couple who accidentally run over a man on New Year’s Eve. Things get complicated when they discover the man had intended bad things for them and their family. “Nostalgia” is a drama involving interconnected stories about loss and grief. Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, Bruce Dern and Ellen Burstyn are among the cast members. The old Charles Bronson “Death Wish” franchise from the 1970s gets a reboot from horror director Eli Roth. Bruce Willis plays a vengeful father out for some vigilante justice after his wife and daughter are brutally attacked.

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