“Can you imagine me as a spy?“
It’s a safe bet to say that Melissa McCarthy is at her comedic best when working alongside writer and director, Paul Feig (Bridesmaids and The Heat), so if you were worried about her recent failings in Identity Theft and Tammy, fear not because Spy delivers plenty of laughs and interesting action sequences. McCarthy can easily be discarded for repeating the same gags, but she proves that when given an intelligent script she can continue to deliver strong comedic roles. It helps that Feig is a fan of the spy genre and he cleverly manages to balance the action set pieces with the comedic moments. Spoof films have grown tiresome over the past years, but when done correctly they can still be entertaining and Spy is such a film. The film didn’t open strong with me, but it eventually grew on me as McCarthy’s character was empowered.
In Spy, McCarthy plays the under confident Susan Cooper, a CIA analyst who serves as the eyes and ears of one of the agency’s top field agents, Bradley Fine (Jude Law). It becomes evident from the opening sequence that Fine is a spoof of James Bond, but I felt those moments a bit forced. When a mission goes wrong and the identities of all of the spies in the agency have been compromised, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janny), the agency’s stern boss decides to send Susan to Europe to uncover a conspiracy involving an arms dealer who is trying to sell a nuclear bomb to terrorists. The elegant dealer, Rayna Boyanov, is hilariously played by Rose Byrne who is convincing as one of the main villains in the film. Susan’s mission in Europe is compromised however, when the aggressive agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) dismisses orders to stay clear from the site and decides to infiltrate the location despite having his cover blown. The interplay between Susan and Rick and between Susan and Rayna are by far the highlight of the film as these actors play off each other extremely well.
Despite some hilarious scenes involving Statham, McCarthy, and Byrne, Spy misses some marks with a couple of characters. Jude Law is an incredibly talented actor, but I wasn’t a fan of his role here. He might be spoofing James Bond, but it’s Statham who delivers the most laughs poking fun of the macho character he has played during most of his career. It was great to see him back in a comedic role after his initial collaborations with Guy Rithcie (Snatch and Lock, Stock, and two Smoking Barrels). The cameo with 50 Cents was also quite horrendous and forced. Miranda Hart also has an important supporting role as one of Susan’s best friends in the agency, but I wasn’t a particular fan of her character and most of her jokes fell flat. Despite missing the mark at times, Spy is still hilarious when it centers on McCarthy, Statham, and Byrne. The feminist message might be too loud and obvious, but it works extremely well for a genre film where females are often overlooked and reduced to desk jobs. Spy also succeeds at delivering genuine suspense as we follow the hero trying to solve the case. There are memorable action sequences that take place in a kitchen and on a private jet that are incredibly entertaining, and it’s not something you see in spoof films. Spy balances the comedy very well and it delivers the action that espionage films have us accustomed to. I had a lot of fun with it.