RED SPARROW (R)

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Joel Edgerton, Matthias Schonaerts, Charlotte Rampling, Mary Louise Parker, Jeremy Irons

Directed by: Francis Lawrence

“Modernizing” the La Femme Nikita trope by adding scenes of porno/voyeuristic kinky sex and torture, the filmmakers have the gall to advertise this as a “female empowerment film.” In a nutshell, it is the calculated debasement of Dominika (Lawrence), a beautiful and talented Bolshoi Ballet dancer who loses everything after a graphic onstage injury. Faced with the prospect of being thrown into the streets with her invalid mother, she agrees to help her leering uncle with “an assignment.” It turns out she’s the hotel bedroom bait in a Secret Service assassination, and the only witnesses allowed to stay alive afterwards are members of “The Agency.” Faced with the choice of “sign-up or die,” she chooses life and ends up in a torture school run by a sadistic headmistress (Rampling), who tells Dominika, “Your body belongs to the state.” After way too many scenes of gratuitous, voyeuristic sex and violence, Dominika is sent to Budapest to seduce an American spy (Edgerton), who may (or may not) know the identity of a Russian double agent. This last bit never works, and just seems tacked on to the BDSM-themed torture-fest.

1 piece of ‘Did Jennifer Lawrence read the script before she said “yes?”’ toast.

DEATH WISH (R)

Starring: Bruce Willis, Vincent D’Onofrio. Elisabeth Shue, Camilla Morone, Dean Norris

Directed by: Eli Roth

Resurrecting a trope made famous by Charles Bronson, a trauma surgeon reacts to the brutal home-invasion attack on his wife and daughter by searching out the bad guys responsible - and killing them. This incendiary film celebrates vigilante justice, and is absolutely the wrong film at the wrong time. I kept looking at the credits to see if this was financed by the NRA.

1 piece of ‘I’m disappointed that Bruce Willis took the job’ toast

(Comments? E-mail gilmansergh@comcast.net)