Sunday 4 June 2017

Movie Review: Spy (2015)

An action comedy, Spy serves as a star vehicle for Melissa McCarthy and offers travelogue-style Bond-parody antics with an extra dose of fun vulgarity.

Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is a frumpy CIA agent reduced to a supporting role, staying safely behind a desk to support the dashing Bradley Fine (Jude Law) as he tackles daring missions across the globe. While searching for a missing suitcase nuke, Fine is killed in action by the glamorous Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), who is attempting to sell the weapon to the highest bidder. CIA boss Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) learns that Rayna has uncovered the identity of numerous CIA agents and agrees to allow the unknown Cooper to go into the field, much to the chagrin of highly-strung star agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham).

Assuming various identities Cooper tracks down terrorist middleman Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) in Paris, and then saves Rayna's life in Rome. Rayna is suspicious but accepts Cooper into her inner circle as she travels across Europe connecting with global mobsters. Cooper tries to locate the bomb without blowing her cover, a job not made easier by a rampaging agent Ford.

Directed by Paul Feig, Spy offers up exactly what it promises. The idea of an insecure desk-bound support agent being suddenly thrust into a field role to stop the sale of a weapon of mass destruction is a perfect fit with McCarthy's burst-out-of-a-shell persona, and the film carries enough female empowerment messaging to ride over the bumpier patches. Matching agent Cooper against a female antagonist in Rayna is a clever touch, allowing the battle between women to draw out contrasts in sophistication, attitude and grit.

Cooper is provided with the briefest of background sketches, but enough to make the point: 10 years prior she was a top trainee, but the suave and self-centred Bradley Fine convinced her to remain as his support rather than take the lead role, a jab at men standing in the way of women reaching their potential. Cooper also laments the formative messages she received from her mother encouraging meek submissiveness.

The action scenes are plentiful, laced with violence and profanity but keeping humour as the primary target and often hitting the mark. It's mostly frantic, breathless stuff, more concerned with rushing around Europe than common sense, a female Bond on laughing gas.

McCarthy surrounds herself with excellent talent, Jude Law and Jason Statham nailing their roles with Statham getting a fair share of the best lines as an agent with one too many hissing stories about his incredible feats from missions past. Rose Byrne provides the necessary condescending counterbalance, her bemused verbal sparring with McCarthy a constant source of comic tension.

Filled with irrelevant but funny sidebars including a CIA HQ infected with bats and mice, Spy is polished silliness.

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