Manipulation, seduction, and Jennifer Lawrence – what could possibly go wrong with this alluring sexually charged spy-thriller Red Sparrow? Well…

While Red Sparrow looks appealing at first glance — and yes, it’s Lawrence like we’ve never seen before — the Oscar-winning actress’s reunion with Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence is sophomoric. Lawrence’s stellar performance does salvage it a bit, along with the shock value provided by a rather promiscuous adaptation of former CIA agent Jason Matthews’s novel.

Lawrence plays Dominika Egorova, a talented Russian ballerina whose career is tragically cut short after a horrible accident on stage. After the accident, Dominika’s somewhat cushy lifestyle seems to be slipping away. Uncertain for how she will maintain care for her sick mother, Nina (Joely Richardson), the first act of manipulation occurs when Dominika’s shady Uncle Ivan Dimitrevich Egorov, played by a sly Matthias Schoenaerts, who is also head of a Russian intelligence agency, forces her into a life of espionage after she is witness to a violent crime carried out by the Russian government.

It’s unclear if her uncle is truly looking out for Dominika’s best interests when he sends his niece to Sparrow school, where she learns how to use her mind and body as a weapon of seduction and the art of psychological warfare from Russian intelligence officials. Or, as Dominika refers to it, “Whore school.”

Full disclosure: This tale of espionage is not for the fainthearted. Some sequences, while extremely entertaining, may leave many moviegoers uncomfortable in their seats. It’s gory, intimate, and ugly. But, once we get through some pretty fierce, brutal, and often times overtly sexual scenes relating to the power and seduction training, the now Russian operative is given her first task of seducing American CIA operative, Nate Nash, played by a rugged Joel Edgerton. Her assignment is to find out who the American’s informant is in the Russian secret service. Therefore, Dominika‘s task is to use the power of her mind and body to seduce Nash and get as much Intel as possible for the SVR. Meanwhile, the audience is left wondering: Who is really manipulating who?

Red Sparrow appears to be Lawrence’s Atomic Blonde or Salt. However, despite the fact that The Hunger Games actress shines, and oh, does she shine, the film fails to reach those levels.

While Lawrence can pull off the Slavic look thanks to her facial features, her Russian accent, like others players in the film wobbles.  There is actually one scene in which Dominika speaks to her Russian mother in English while they are alone… in Russia. What’s more, not one of the characters in the film were actually Russian, which was painfully obvious throughout the entire film and perhaps one of the biggest mistakes in the film’s attempt at authenticity.

Disappointing dialects aside, one must give credit where credit is due. Lawrence shows us that she is more than capable of carrying an entire film and Red Sparrow proves that she’s willing to do whatever it takes to do it. Despite the fact that this thriller is more style over substance that will leave any die-hard spy thriller movie lover wanting more, it helps that strong supporting players like Mary Louise Parker, a lush chief of staff to a United States senator, and Charlotte Rampling, the headmistress at Sparrow School, are present to push the somewhat of a slow-burn along.

Aimed at the adult demographic, the timely plotline also respectfully alludes to the current modern-day Cold War America is having with Russia interfering with the elections by promoting discord and division. But ultimately, and unfortunately, Red Sparrow‘s twists are transparent and not all that interesting.