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Spy (Melissa McCarthy) - Review


Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

PAUL Feig and Melissa McCarthy’s third venture (after Bridesmaids and The Heat) is a hilarious take on the spy movie genre that hits more often than it misses.

A foul-mouthed, violent dismantling of more testosterone-driven genre conventions, this tears down convention while remaining careful to deliver the goods in both action and comedic terms. Hence, while certainly taking pot-shots at everyone from Bond to Jason Statham action movies (by ingeniously using Statham himself), it also honours the time honoured traditions that have made them so iconic.

And in doing that so successfully, Feig and McCarthy have delivered their own brand of comedy gold that sets up their own franchise should the idea take their fancy.

The story follows unassuming CIA analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy), a deskbound fixer who harbours a crush on her suave partner (Jude Law), who suddenly finds herself called into action when he falls off the grid. Volunteering to go deep undercover to infiltrate the world of a deadly arms dealer (played by Rose Byrne), Cooper quickly has to learn how to cope in the field and avert a global disaster while her compromised male colleagues (led by Statham) look on with exasperation.

Taken at face value, Spy could seem to offer little more than the type of comedy that mines most of its laughs from watching a big boned leading character go through any number of embarrassing pratfalls (a la Paul Blart).

But while certainly offering some – admittedly funny – sight gags based around that concept, Spy also proves itself more sophisticated than that. It is broad but it’s smart too.

The nods to Bond are particularly well realised (whether in its use of gadgets or Law’s sexy but clinical lead agent), while the action is conveyed in suitably eye-catching fashion, delivering the kind of set pieces that wouldn’t feel out of place in any number of high stakes action films (a girl-on-girl fight in a kitchen being one particular highlight).

Having laid the foundations, Feig then has a comfort zone in which to allow McCarthy to work her motor-mouthed shtick without overdoing the bravado. She displays a nice line in vulnerability, too, as evidenced in her looks of despair whenever a new identity is unveiled or an adversary puts her down.

There’s terrific support, too, not least from Statham, whose decision to play the hard-man as an idiot proves revelatory. The actor is hilarious simply by playing it so straight.

Praise, too, for the likes of Byrne, Allison Janney and Bobby Cannavale, who all get to make their mark in some way, even if Miranda Hart delivers the film’s one genuinely duff note (her brand of comedy not quite fitting in here).

At two hours, the film also hits the odd moment where the material feels stretched. But it’s tribute to Feig and McCarthy that for every lull, there’s a comedy highlight just waiting in the wings.

It means that Spy is the summer’s surprise package so far… a comedy juggernaut that delivers McCarthy her best star vehicle to date, while raising Feig’s stock even higher. It’s a blast.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 2hrs
UK Release Date: June 5, 2015