I am of the opinion that Melissa McCarthy is a brilliant comedian, with a strong sketch comedy background. I think she’s best when teamed with director Paul Feig, who understands her processes and timing, and really knows when to let her go and when to rein her in. Bridesmaids and the Heat were both hilarious, with McCarthy able to display some different types of funny.
Needless to say, I was really looking forward to this movie as soon as I heard about it, and I am happy to say that it lived up to my expectations! Action-comedy is a really wonderful mash-up genre, and probably one of my favorite styles of movie. Spy pulls it off, and manages to be a good straightforward action comedy, and not the spoof I was afraid it would be.
Spy starts off with the audience following CIA super-spy Bradley Fine and his handler, Susan Cooper. Cooper works out of the vermin-infested basement of CIA headquarters and communicates with Fine on his missions. The vermin infestation is played as a throw-away running gag. While funny, I'm not sure it was necessary. In any case, Fine accidentally kills Tihomir Boyanov, who was the only person who knew the location of the nuclear bomb he stole. Fine’s character is quickly established as fairly conceited as we see that he takes advantage of Cooper’s help, and while he acknowledges her helpfulness, he doesn’t really acknowledge much else about her.
Fine goes back on mission to capture Boyanov’s daughter, Rayna, since she may know the location of the bomb. Unfortunately, he gets killed, and Rayna reveals she knows the names and faces of all the other top CIA agents, so they better not come after her! Cooper volunteers to go into the field, since no one knows her face, and do reconnaissance on Rayna and her contact, DeLucca, to help track down the bomb. She gets a couple of new identities, each one more humiliating than the last, but eventually poses as Rayna’s bodyguard to get close enough to her to watch over the deal. She also has to deal with rogue agent Rick Ford, who quit the CIA to seek vengeance for Fine’s murder, and seems to be on a testosterone-filled tear through Europe, while managing to not be helpful at all. She also gets assistance from fellow basement-dweller Nancy as she travels from Paris to Rome to Budapest. Along the way, Cooper proves to be an exceptional agent, far more capable than anyone had given her credit for.
The action is really well directed, considering that Feig is mostly known as comedy director. I particularly enjoyed the hand to hand combat scenes, which were really well done! There has been some question as to why the R rating was necessary, but the reality is that most of the comedians in the movie are curse-happy, and in order to let them improv as they wanted, letting the cursing go makes sense.
- This is definitely a Melissa McCarthy movie, and I have to tell you – I really hope this gets franchised and we get a couple of sequels. She is so great as this character who has been over-looked for so long, but when given the opportunity to step up, she really does and proves she’s been capable the whole time. It was really important to me that she did prove to be a fantastic agent and not a joke. Also – the fight scenes were so great! Especially her knife/frying pan fight with Nargis Fahkri.
- Miranda Hart – a well-known British comedian, plays Nancy B. Artingstall, Cooper’s fellow analyst in the basement. She’s as funny as she is tall, and she’s really really tall. I loved her always-honest support of Susan regardless of how difficult the situation was. I also enjoyed her interaction with Fifty Cent…yes, Fifty Cent is in this.
- Allison Janney plays the CIA boss who decides to give Susan a shot in the field. She is fantastic in a very typical role (cop/spy boss who is no-nonsense), that she plays in the typical way, but she manages to bring just enough to it to make it really entertaining and feel fresh – despite being an action movie cliché role.
- Rose Byrne, who was also brilliantly horrible in Bridesmaids, continues to master brilliantly horrible as Rayna Boyanov. She’s so spoiled and pampered and trying so hard to run what’s left of her father’s international crime organization. I loved the interaction between Rayna and Susan once Susan got in close enough to act as her bodyguard and stopped taking her crap. It was absolutely hilarious.
- I’ve never been a Jude Law fan, I’m not sure why, but he also felt a little useless here. Part of that is the character, Fine is the ultimate spy, and he treats Susan like just another tool in his arsenal. When he finally learns of her true devotion to him, he’s not really sure what to do with that. Thankfully, by that time, she realizes he’s not really worth that level of devotion, and is able to step it down. I do have to wonder why they used Law, since the character is American. Why not cast an American actor?
- Jason Statham absolutely steals this movie as agent Rick Ford. Some people will be surprised by his comedy talent if they are only familiar with him from his more recent projects. However, if you remember his Guy Ritchie movies, he really started in the action/comedy genre. And, aside from his Olympic-level diving ability, he does have some pretty great comic-timing. I never would have thought that he and McCarthy would be perfect partners in a piece like this but it worked so well. Every single rant he went on had me laughing out loud, “This arm has been completely ripped off, and reattached with this arm!”
- Morena Baccarin shows up very briefly as another of the CIA agents whose identities were compromised. She plays the pretty-popular agent Karen Walker, who Susan and Nancy have a hilarious encounter with while out at the local CIA bar.
- Carlos Ponce and Will Yun Lee play the other two compromised CIA agents – and hey! Second movie in a row featuring 5 minutes of Will Yun Lee (after San Andreas last week), and that’s not nearly enough for me. Be sure to notice how his biceps are barely contained by his suit in this.
- Bobby Cannavale plays Sergio DeLuca – Rayna’s contact/broker who is setting up the deal for her to move the nuke. He’s basically playing Bobby Cannavale in Rome, which is pretty entertaining, but he’s mainly there to be the straight man while others around him get to be funny.
- Mad TV vet Michael McDonald (who was also in the Heat) plays the version of Q for this movie, Patrick. He sets Susan up with her gear for her mission.
- The hilarious British comedian Peter Serafinowicz plays Aldo – an Italian agent that Nancy contacts to assist Susan while in Rome. He plays a very stereotypical lewd Italian-guy, but Serafinowicz manages to make that slightly charming – but just slightly charming.
I really loved this movie, it made me laugh, but it’s also a really good action movie. It’s straightforward, it’s genuine, and it’s hilarious! I have to say that I was so thrilled to have another action movie with a genuine female lead. I was thrilled that even when someone comes to Susan’s rescue in the final scene, it’s another woman. At no point is Susan any less than any of the men in the movie and for most of it, she’s the superior agent to all of them. Who knew that between this and Mad Max Fury Road it would be such a strong female movie season? Also – finally a movie with a PDS! As you know, I complain constantly about the PTS (pointless tit shot) in movies, where male directors think a great way to add ‘sexy’ to their movies is to throw a shot of a pair of tits in for no reason (they’re all wrong on that, btw). This movie finally has a pointless dick shot! And played completely for laughs!
9 out of 10 – Gained points for Statham and his rants, lost points for the running gag of the terrible aliases the agency kept setting up for Susan. Gained points for the Bond-like cold open, and song sequence. Gained points for the gadget sequence, always entertaining. Gained points for Rayna’s hair, and the running jokes there. Also – gained points for the PDS!
Bonus Video 1 – Haywire, still the best female-led action movie out there.
Bonus Video 2 – McCarthy explaining the best way to deal with critics on Ellen.
Bonus Video 3 – Cast Interviews.