Red Sparrow is not a Black Widow film, or Atomic Blonde, or the erotic spy thriller that its promotional material makes it out to be. There’s sex, but it’s not sexy. It’s mostly violent and pretty uncomfortable to watch — which is apparently the intention Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence had in the first place.

Director Lawrence told IndieWire that he found it “annoying” people kept comparing it to movies like Atomic Blonde, which, though violent, are much more fun experiences overall.

I’m not surprised by it anymore. I’ve seen it happen before. I didn’t know about Atomic Blonde and then I saw the poster and I knew the second I saw that shot of Charlize in the wig, ‘People are going to think we’re just doing Atomic Blonde.’

What sets it apart is Red Sparrow’s insistence that nothing about it is supposed to be very fun, especially the sex. Jennifer Lawrence plays Dominika, a former ballerina who is forced into a life of espionage, trained at a facility to use her body to extract secrets from her targets to relay to the Russian government.

Where this movie had every opportunity to turn into the kind of sordid, emptily titillating male-gaze-a-thon it seemed in danger of becoming, Jennifer Lawrence was given full say in what she did and didn’t want to do on camera. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Lawrence said doing the movie made her feel “empowered.”

I feel like something that was taken from me, I got back. It’s my body, it’s my art, and it’s my choice.

Francis Lawrence said that when she first signed on to do the movie, he wanted to sit her down and have a very frank chat about what tone he wanted it to take.

I wanted to talk about all the scenes, I wanted to make her a partner in making sure that we were really, really, really vigilant about each and every moment in terms of sexuality, nudity, and violence. And that it was hitting the right spots in terms of tone and theme and character.

Whether or not it will all pay off remains to be seen. It’s not easy to categorize this kind of movie to make it appeal to the right audience, and Lawrence knows that.

It’s a risky kind of movie these days. It’s not the little indie and it’s not the big huge comic book tentpole. It’s a very different kind of R-rated adult film. I want people to know the kind of movie it is. I think part of the problem actually stems a little bit from people’s expectations of a spy movie, people’s expectations of Jen. I think people like to put things in boxes.

Red Sparrow opens in theaters March 2.

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