Jennifer Lawrence’s ‘Red Sparrow’ director addresses the love-hate reaction from movie critics: ‘It’s hard for me to tell quite yet what it is people hate about it’

‘Red Sparrow’ 20th Century Fox
  • “Red Sparrow” director Francis Lawrence reacts to the love-hate response critics have had to the movie.
  • Despite some saying that the movie glorifies rape and violence, he said, “I don’t think it’s gratuitous in any way.”

Jennifer Lawrence’s latest movie “Red Sparrow” opens in theatres on Friday, and depending who you believe in the film criticism world, the 20th Century Fox release is either a unique spy thriller rarely made by a Hollywood studio, or a dull pretentious work that glorifies rape and violence.

With a current rating of 60% on Rotten Tomatoes, the love-hate reaction for the movie is one that its director, Francis Lawrence (“Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Hunger Games: Mockingjay” 1 and 2), is still trying to wrap his head around.

“I haven’t read too many reviews yet but I’m starting to get that sense,” Lawrence told Business Insider on Wednesday about the polarising reaction to the movie. “It’s hard for me to tell quite yet what it is people hate about it.”

Red Sparrow Francis Lawrence Fox final
‘Red Sparrow’ director Francis Lawrence. 20th Century Fox

Based on the 2013 Jason Matthews novel of the same name, “Red Sparrow” follows a famed Russian ballerina named Dominika (Jennifer Lawrence) who is recruited to become a “Sparrow,” part of a Russian intelligence unit that trains its agents to use seduction and manipulation to get what they want.

The movie is violent and sexually graphic – in one scene Jennifer Lawrence is nude and uses her sexuality to intimidate a man who attempted to rape her in a previous scene – which has thrown off many who were expecting Fox to release a more traditional action-packed spy thriller.

Lawrence said this might be part of the reason for the split reception.

“I certainly knew that taking on this kind of content would turn some people off,” he said. “There’s just some people who don’t want to watch tough movies and movies with brutality. I don’t think it’s gratuitous in any way or that I went too far or too gory or anything like that, I wasn’t interested in that, I was interested in intensity. Some of it may be in preconceived ideas of who Jen is, what they think a spy thriller should be, people may also have a hard time with this kind of content in the world now.”

Much of the focus of the film’s publicity has been on why Jennifer Lawrence took the role, which she said “empowered” her following being the victim of a hack that led to nude photos of her being leaked online in 2014. But some critics don’t see it that way. New York Post film critic Sara Stewart described the movie as “a throwback to old Hollywood in its belief that gratuitous rape and violence are the best way to create a heroine with backbone.”

“Eventually I will read reviews,” Lawrence said. “But listen, I would rather people love it or hate it than think it’s mediocre.”