Movie Review - Spy

Melissa McCarthy teams up with the creative team that delivered Bridesmaids, which made her a star and earned her an Oscar nomination. Writer-director Paul Feig captains the ship and actress Rose Byrne is again co-star du jour in this spoof or send-up of spy films like the James Bond movies or maybe the Mission: Impossible movies to a lesser degree.

McCarthy plays Susan Cooper, tech support at the CIA. She's specifically assigned to Bradley Fine, played by Jude Law, a James Bond-like spy who works in the field infiltrating places and fighting bad guys, while Susan monitors the situation and offers back-up. Susan is the one who has access to drones or satellites, which has infrared scanning to know where villains are, so she can warn Bradley of potential danger.

Secretly, Susan has a crush on Bradley, but the running gag through probably more than half of the movie is how everyone starting with Bradley dumps on her. They're either dismissive of her as Bradley is or they're actively insulting her like Jason Statham who plays male-chauvinistic spy, Rick Ford, or Allison Janney who plays angry CIA chief Elaine Crocker.

Through a series of circumstances, Susan is taken from behind the computer and put into the field as an undercover agent. A lot of the issues that occur, which are the source of comedy early in the film, are all issues that Amy Schumer already addressed on her series Inside Amy Schumer. Watching McCarthy play a sad sack who keeps being mistreated by co-workers or people in general got tired and wasn't funny. Statham is given some great lines of dialogue, but it doesn't help the film in the first or even second act.

The film takes a turn in the tail end of the second act and start of the third act when Susan's character assumes a new identity, a tougher and stronger identity. Susan stops being the butt of people's jokes to making those people the butt of her jokes. So, for the first two-thirds or so, McCarthy has to listen to people be insult comics aiming at her. The last third is her being an insult comic aiming at everyone. She stands up for herself and fights back.

Strangely, the movie is funny when McCarthy is allowed to be smart and funny, or at least funny in the way that she was in The Heat (2013) and less in the way that she was in Tammy (2014). Yet, Feig does surround her with a good and hilarious supporting cast like Statham in a surprisingly, great comedic turn, Miranda Hart as her best friend Nancy, Peter Serafinowicz as Aldo, the possibly horny and frisky Roman, Bobby Cannavale as Deluca, the Bond villain here and Byrne as Rayna, the femme fatale.

Feig competently directs the action scenes but shines only in the scenes in which McCarthy is at the center. Watching her morph into a kung fu or gun-wielding fighter is pretty phenomenal. A kitchen fight in particular is very much, as other critics have said, like a Jackie Chan fight.

There's some writing flubs in the end that somewhat derail things, but I get that logic gaps are necessary for setting up certain comedic set-pieces. Yet, overall the film becomes a fun ride.

Four Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content including brief graphic nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 55 mins.


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