Movie Review: Spy

From the director of all those raunchy comedies you always love, and starring the queen of raunchy comedies you sometimes like, Paul Feig's effective spoof on films of super-agent espionage and mustache-twirling villains manages to hold its own as the hottest summer in movies kicks off. Spy, which pits star Melissa McCarthy against something much larger than her usual lacking comedic feats, tosses in just enough spy nostalgia and sharp dialogue to pass for one of the summer's most exciting action-comedies. While it may not be at Kingsman level, this daring secret-agent romp definitely raises the bar for what McCarthy is (and should be) capable of.

Following a worthy (if not rushed) intro, spoofing the elaborate intros of the James Bond films, the espionage of Spy kicks off without delay. After seeing the CIA's top agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) tackle yet another day in the life of a spy, we then meet our unlikely protagonist, analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy). Working behind a desk as the eyes and ears for Fine, Cooper seeks more in her life than sitting on the sidelines. Her fantasy is made true when the CIA's top agents are compromised while in search of a hidden nuclear bomb, prompting Cooper to step up when no one else can. Diving into an intense world of disguises and gun-play, Cooper must infiltrate the ranks of the deadly Raina (Rose Byrne), who harbors important secrets about the bomb's location. Quickly getting entangled in a web of lies and fast-paced action, Cooper must hold her own in this dangerous new world.

Following such comedies as the raunchy jailbird flop Get Hard and the overly lacking odd-couple flick Hot Pursuit, you could say Spy was a breath of fresh air. With a tight-knit cast of intriguing characters, from McCarthy's ever-changing spy persona to the dashing duo of Jude Law and Jason Statham , as well as just enough witty and dirty jokes to make the film enjoyable, Spy has easily become the freshest comedy of the summer. Like the successful 21 Jump Street films, Spy definitely knows how to mix together surprisingly good action with the classic comedy of the guy behind Bridesmaids and The Heat. A decent comedy to hold you over until we get massive dinosaurs and more comic-book excitement from Marvel, Spy is an elegant (if not perfect) spoof of the spy genre, while keeping things out of the Austin Powers realm.

Among the neatly choreographed fight scenes and vulgar hilarity, Spy's true force comes from its awesome cast. While it may be hard to see Jude Law with an American accent, and action star Jason Statham stick to the sidelines rather than leading the show, none of these minor complaints take away from the sheer force of this perfect cast. Beginning with McCarthy, who has made a career off of a mix of hilarious and cringe-worthy comedies (as well as one decent TV sitcom), the actress shines in this film. Rather than playing her usual down-on-her-luck slob who does anything for even a chuckle (Tammy, Identity Thief), McCarthy channels her inner secret agent to play one bad-ass leading lady. Like her role in 2013's moderately funny film The Heat, where she played a no-holds-barred detective with a bone to pick, McCarthy brings her A-game here, relying less on her physical comedy, and more on her witty comebacks. Transforming from an innocent desk jockey into a deadly force to be reckoned with, McCarthy's Susan Cooper doesn't joke around here (well, maybe a little).

Next in the cast, we have the men of this female-led show, who also manage to shine against McCarthy's star power. Jude Law, famous for battling everything from contagions to enemies of Sherlock Holmes, kicks ass in this film, even as he struggles to adopt an American accent. While I may be overreacting a bit about the accent, Law takes a turn in the film that you'll never see coming, which makes his character even more interesting as you go along. A dashing, Bond-esque spy with a brilliant reputation behind him, Jude Law's Bradley Fine may not be the main character, but his mentor to McCarthy is definitely not a wasted character. We also have the over-the-top and arrogant Rick Ford, played by the king of badassery, Jason Statham. Known for his plethora of solo films (all which usually include him lone-wolfing it against deadly foes with guns), Statham has also joined a number of franchises, from the Fast and Furious films to The Expendables. Shelving his gun just for the moment, Statham becomes the funniest character in the film, endless spitting out elaborate stories of his spy adventures as he tries to outmatch McCarthy's Susan Cooper in experience. Laughing my ass off in almost every scene he's in, Statham makes for a hilarious sidekick of sorts, even without kicking that much ass.

The villains of the film were much like any spy film, imperious and one-sided. While we may not get that much background information on them, they do appear quite drunk with their own power. That's the case with Raina Boyanov, the daughter of a deadly terrorist who knows the location of a nuclear bomb. Played by the beautiful Rose Byrne, who has had her fair share of comedic roles, as well as a few dabbles in superhero and horror flicks, the deadly Raina offers a fun yet cold-hearted antagonist to McCarthy's bumbling hero. While her background with her murderous father isn't explained very much, we get that her main motivation is like every villain: They want all the world's power and money...exclusively money in this case. Trying to sell her father's bomb to the highest bidder (which in the film is actually her real-life boyfriend Bobby Cannavale), Byrne plays a convincing villain, as she humorously tries to stay alive against forces that aim to kill her. Cannavale, who shows up in the film's conclusion, also makes for a fun role, with the usual villainous intentions up his evil sleeve.

Like many spy films, the action only raises the stakes for what the film has in store. Even if it isn't Kingsman or Bond, Spy didn't have much trouble keeping the thrills alive, as it pit our heroes against everything from deadly gun-play to city-street car chases. Gracefully mixing in its own vulgar comedy here and there, the action scenes were executed quite well for a film like this. From scooter chases through Rome and knife fights over flaming pans, this spy spoof doesn't disappoint in terms of delivering more secret-agent nostalgia.

Overall, this globe-trotting blending of the action of James Bond and the vulgar humor of 21 Jump Street makes for a comedy worth seeing this summer. I made the mistake of seeing the PG-13 disaster Hot Pursuit last month, when I really should have just waited for this hard-R romp. A fan of Melissa McCarthy to some extent (in roles that don't make an effort to humiliate her on-screen), and forever a fan of films of espionage and spy gadgetry, Spy offers a gracious thrill-ride through the spy world, while also spoofing everything that makes these films so fun to watch.                 

I gave this film a 7 out of 10 for its great cast of spies and villains, its worthy action scenes that make it almost up to par with Kingsman (almost!), and its raunchy comedy that pushes the notion that most comedies today only survive with an R-rating (well, unless you're Pitch Perfect).

Stay tuned for a summer full of awesome movies and equally-awesome movie reviews, as the hottest summer in movies kicks off. From exciting new adventures with deadly dinosaurs in Jurassic World to all the hype of fresh (and rebooted) comic-book films, come back here for my reviews of the most recent films I see. 

Popular Posts