There are spy movies, spy movie parodies, spy movies that almost parody themselves (never say Octopussy again), and then there is Spy: all comedy, part action thriller, something of an eye-opener (Jason Statham can really do funny) and a fantastic vehicle for star Melissa McCarthy.
To be honest, this is the first movie of hers I have watched and, potty mouth included, the woman can really do funny too, with a side order of forlorn and a tall glass of whup-@$$ to wash it all down.
While this has been praised as her best role to date, I have no basis for comparison so all I can say is that she gives a winning performance here as Susan Cooper, a deskbound CIA analyst.
Susan has lived her life not wanting to make waves that rock boats, that sort of thing. She is seemingly content to be the voice in a field agent’s earpiece, in particular that of suave 007-like Bradley Fine (Jude Law), to whom she provides vital, frequently life-saving intel when he is in the field.
When a mission goes awry and the world’s smallest nuclear device (step aside, Helios) is about to be sold on the black market, Susan finds herself on the trail of international criminal Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne, quite magnetic as a bad girl whose degree of badness seems to vary) – much to the disgust of fellow agent Rick Ford (Statham), who thinks he should be the one on the job.
Their frequent run-ins, Susan’s own interactions with her voice in the earpiece (fellow analyst Nancy, played by British comedian Miranda Hart), and Susan’s hastily improvised attempts to cosy up to the untrusting, nasty Raina serve as the main springboards for both the laughs and the excitement.
Writer-director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) hits all the Bond marks, and then puts a comedic spin on them, from the opening faux 007 titles to a slightly disturbed version of Q down in the CIA armoury.
The comedy is often foul-mouthed without coming across as offensive and a good deal of the jokes hit the mark – although the misses are bafflingly head-scratching. Langley’s vermin infestation problem, for example, doesn’t seem to have a point and just lingers in the background until it’s forgotten.
Still, there’s no denying that you’ll most likely bust a gut laughing here. The surprising part is that the action scenes, including a terrific kitchen fight sequence, are not bumble-fests or half-heartedly executed but actually pretty cool and impressive.
A lot of Spy’s success can be credited to the in-synch combination of Feig smartly calling the shots behind the scenes and McCarthy’s versatility in front of the camera as she slickly reveals more and more of her character’s dangerous and quick-thinking side.
But some great turns by the Brits – hey, how come there are so many in the CIA? – do make it feel like you’re watching a great ensemble effort.
Hart is a hoot, Law sends up the urbane secret agent as a clueless and self-absorbed dope. But it’s Statham who is the big revelation of hilarity here, with his hard-as-nails Agent Ford constantly bragging about incredible exploits (some of which I think actually reference his other films) while being a bit of a dunderhead.
Peter Serafinowicz (you may remember him as the one who called the Guardians of the Galaxy “a bunch of a-holes”) is also hilarious as Aldo, the agency’s man in Rome whose hands doth roam a bit more than the job calls for. Unfortunately, something had to give and Allison Janney and Morena Baccarin are all but wasted in their tiny roles.
There’s one customary bit of Bond-age that we haven’t touched on yet, but suffice to say Feig won’t let you leave the cinema without a nod to that as well (and watch for the post-credits coda).
By no means a spoof, Spy is that rarity, an action-comedy that dwells in two worlds and does both of them proud.
Director: Paul Feig
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Miranda Hart, Jason Statham, Allison Janney, Peter Serafinowicz, Bobby Cannavale, Morena Baccarin, 50 Cent