Archives For Joel Edgerton

Red Sparrow (2018)

March 23, 2018 — Leave a comment

When trailers came out for Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow, there were thoughts that the I Am Legend director had beaten Marvel at its own game and released a Black Widow movie in all but name. To be blunt, any ideas about Natasha Romanova should be left discreetly at the door before entering to see Red Sparrow. There’s a chance that the film and the novel have been influenced by the character in certain areas, but this is far from something you can take the kids to.

Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a Russian ballerina who is forced to end her career after a particularly heinous act of professional jealousy. Struggling to make ends meet, all whilst looking after her sick mother, Dominika’s Uncle Ivan (Matthias Schoenaerts), a high up member of Russian intelligence, offers to take his niece under his wing. Sadly for Dominika, Ivan’s goodwill is part of larger plan that sees her being forced to train as a ‘Sparrow’, an operative who uses their body to extract information from their subjects. Led by The Matron (Charlotte Rampling), Dominika and her classmates have their personalities deconstructed and their sexuality made clinical. When they’re spat out the other end, they’re good for two things: f**king and fighting. Dominika manages to maintain a part of herself and this is what carries her through her first mission as a Sparrow. Dispatched to Budapest by her dear uncle, she must track down CIA operative, Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton) and, through him, find out who in the Russia SVR has been selling secrets to the Americans.

Let’s be up front, Red Sparrow is remarkably problematic for several reasons. Many of these can be found in what should really have been the film’s short training montage. In front of her class of nubile men and women, The Matron instils the virtues of unemotionally giving your body over to others in the pursuit of Russia’s glory. A student is coerced into giving oral sex to a prisoner, we witness the students being forced to watch hardcore pornography and, in one of the strangest scenes, Dominika faces up to a student who tried to rape her by stripping naked and using his desire for power against him. The intent of the scene is clear, but it’ll take you a while to remove that frown.

Everything up to these scenes manages to subtly play upon the misogyny that taints Dominika’s world. If she’s not having her back rubbed by sleazy politicians in photo opps, her own mother is warning her against her uncle’s fondness for her. Stripped of her ability to dance, she is forced to believe that her body is the only useful for one other thing. And then the film turns into Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS for too long a period.

Thankfully, once we’re in Budapest, Red Sparrow settles down with its attempts to shock and becomes something more akin to Atomic Blonde, with Justin Haythe’s screenplay opting to play with the idea of whether Dominika is working for or against the Russians. The film continues to engage like it did at the start, and the prolonged stay at ‘Whore school’, as Dominika calls it, feels like the fevered dream of a teenager with a severe problem with nudity.

Even in tepid films like Joy, Lawrence never fails to impress, and, despite a rather iffy accent, she successfully plays Dominika as someone desperate to escape their new life, but too entrenched to do so. It could have been easy to have our protagonist Sparrow rutting around Eastern Europe like it’s some long forgotten erotic thriller. However, the film wisely allows Dominika to use her newly learnt talents without having to give herself over completely. It establishes a sense of humanity in her that overshadows the sex bot 3000 motif that the marketing department was hoping you’d go for.

Next to Lawrence, Edgerton doesn’t fare as well. Rightly, we know every little about Nash, but this plays in Edgerton’s performance in which he seems to be sleeping walking through most of it. It’s not distracting, but you do wonder what he was going for. Which is something that cannot be said about Mary-Louise Parker who throws some levity into the film as an alcoholic Chief of Staff. Somewhere in the multiverse there’s a cut of Red Sparrow that follows her and her binge drinking across Europe, and it’s amazing.

Smart and slick, but suffering from some serious misjudgements in tone, Red Sparrow is a rollicking spy thriller. This is not a misogynistic film, it’s a film about misogyny. It just doesn’t know how it wants to say what it wants to say.

Felony (2013)

August 25, 2014 — Leave a comment

Written by Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby), Felony is a gritty Australian thriller that dissects the ideas of morals and honour amongst thieves. Or in this case, honour amongst the boys in blue.

Mal Toohey, played by Edgerton, is a hardworking detective with a decent future ahead for him and his family. After a successful raid and a near miss with a bullet, Toohey and his colleagues blow off steam at the local watering hole. From this point on, Toohey makes a mistake that will scar his life immeasurably. He decides to drink drive home and ends up clipping a young boy out on his bike. When the authorities arrive on the scene, senior detective Carl Summer, played by Tom Wilkinson, takes Mal under his wing and helps fabricate a story that the Mal is in fact a hero. Whilst the boy lies in a coma at hospital, the two men begin to feel the pressure. Mal struggles with his conscience and Carl is harassed by his young by the book partner, Jim Melic (Jai Courtney), who believes Mal’s act of heroism doesn’t add up.

Felony’s dark and stressful themes will certainly stir up emotions in its audience. Its three-way structure and moral ambiguity reminded us instantly of Curt Hanson’s LA Confidential, with each of our three protagonists lying somewhere on the spectrum of corruption. Even the wet behind the ears tests his professionalism when he starts to become attracted to the young boy’s mother, Ankhila Sarduka, played with great emotion by Sarah Roberts.

The performances are superb with Wilkinson standing out the most. Starting off cocksure and a little out of touch with modern society, he expertly portrays a man whose own moral barometer is no longer fit for purpose. Meanwhile, Edgerton moves from one scene to the next riding the clutch on a man ready to collapse under the weight of his own guilt and Courtney manages to maintain his head whilst all those around him lose theirs.

Felony is a mature piece of work that certainly shows Edgerton’s talents in writing. Here’s hoping the film gets the recognition it deserves outside of Australia.

About The Author
My name is John Noonan. I’m a freelance writer that specialises in arts and entertainment. From genre flicks to chick flicks, I love the stuff. So much so, I started a film review blog at earlybirdfilm.wordpress.com. I also contribute to online and hard copy press, including FilmInk magazine.

If you like what you see, I am available for hire. You can contact me via the social media channels above or the form on my home page.