A CIA analyst is forced to go undercover to stop a major arms deal.
First, an admission – I’ve never found Melissa McCarthy to be that funny.
Second – Spy is pretty darn hilarious.
It sees McCarthy reteaming with her Bridesmaids director Paul Feig for a film which skewers the spy movie genre for laughs and manages to land them more often than not.
McCarthy plays a 40 year old loser tethered to a desk as the handler for a suave spy played by Jude Law. She’s obsessed with him but its holding her back, until an opportunity arises to do some real field work.
The set up sees McCarthy playing a massively more buttoned down role than we’re used to seeing and it’s a massive improvement to my mind. A full two hours of shrieking and inventive insults could have become wearing but instead we see her character actually grow and change, gaining in confidence and working up to shouting obscenities at all and sundry.
She’s got help in the form of an eclectic group of co-stars, some of whom fare better with the comedy than others. Law’s American accent is a bit dull and Bobby Cannavale’s villain isn’t memorable and Alison Janney never quite gets the patter down.
I was also totally unsure of Jason Statham at first but he really steps up to the part as the film progresses. His spy character Rick Ford has unexpected layers and while the Stath isn’t a comedy genius he’s perfect for the role and nabs some top one-liners. Plus you get to see him share the screen with McCarthy, something I never expected to happen.
Peter Serafinowicz is a joy as oversexed Italian agent Aldo and finally there’s Rose Byrne who has developed into a fine comedy actress. Her arch accent combines with singularly cutting one liners to serve up some of the best laughs in the picture.
But it’s McCarthy’s show and she keeps everything moving admirably. There’s some drama to contend with, conventional gag timing to nail and just enough of her trademarked off-the-cuff patina to keep the laughs coming.
Spy should also be commended for not only having a lead female character in a male-dominated genre but also showcasing her smarts rather than mere sex appeal and also giving McCarthy plenty of action to work with.
Feig stages a series of surprisingly gritty punch ups and knife fights and his leading lady is right in the mix in credible peril. The brawls are particularly juicy and if there’s some body-double work in the more athletic moments (something many male stars would also be guilty of) McCarthy certainly throws herself into everything she can.
Spy is a little long at 120 minutes and there are stretches of serious stuff and less successful gags which may make you glance at your watch but for the most part it’s a clever take on the genre with a great leading performance, solid action and plenty of properly laugh out loud moments.