“Spy” is the latest collaboration between Melissa McCarthy and director Paul Feig. When the identities of every CIA agent are blown, an analyst (McCarthy) must go out into the field to stop a nuclear bomb deal. Jason Statham, Jude Law, and Rose Byrne co-star as Feig writes and directs.
I had pretty much given up on Melissa McCarthy after last year. She stood out in “Bridesmaids,” but then made the disappointing “Identity Thief.” She then rebounded with the surprisingly great “The Heat,” before crashing back down to Earth in spectacularly awful fashion with the abysmal “Tammy” (my review/rant). “Bridesmaids” and “The Heat” were directed by Feig; the other two…well, weren’t. So all McCarthy has to do is only make movies with Paul Feig directing and her career will be great.
First things first, “Spy” is a very funny film. McCarthy tones it down and while is still poking slight fun at her appearance and goes on her foul-mouthed rants, she never overdoes it, which is both appealing and appreciated. This is only Feig’s second-ever movie screenplay that he has written (after the 2003 drama “I Am David”), and while it follows the spy genre cliché checklist to the letter, it is still full of plenty of witty dialogue and is briskly paced.
While the script and McCarthy complement each other each other quite well, the real standout in the film is Jason Statham, who has never starred in a full-out comedy before. While some of his delivery and timing could use some polishing, Statham is perfectly cast as the arrogant CIA agent who sees himself as indestructible. Every scene he is in features him listing impossible tasks that he’s completed, and the funny thing is that you almost buy it because it’s Jason Statham; you can totally see him jumping off of a bridge onto a moving train while on fire.
It’s like how back in 2010 when Mark Wahlberg, then known just for drama, starred in “The Other Guys” and everyone went, “huh. I guess Marky Mark is funny”. Statham should start seeing a few more comedies offered to him in the future (and he should please take them).
But of course, a spy movie would be nothing without quality action and exotic locations, and this film delivers both. McCarthy’s mission takes her all across Europe, from Paris to Rome to Hungary, and Feig makes sure to get plenty of (albeit passé) shots of landmarks and monuments to give the film a nice flavor.
As for the action, Feig has some wonderfully fun pieces staged. Whether it be a shootout, a knife fight or a car chase, Feig utilizes slow-mo and some nifty camera tricks to really make the sequences engaging, and McCarthy is able to mostly sell that she can kick some serious butt. Just like “The Heat,” “Spy” can be surprisingly graphic at times, but it is never over-the-top gore level. Just know this isn’t going to be like “Get Smart” where the bad guys trip or hit their head on a pipe; there are quite a few kills in this movie (and I loved that).
The only real flaws of “Spy” are nitpicks; overall it is a pretty well constructed comedy. Some conflicts end rather abruptly and you just have to accept the outcome, and if you are looking for any real twists and turns than you’ll be in for a letdown (I guessed the ending within the first 10 minutes, you know, not to brag).
I really was surprised how much I liked “Spy,” and it has, at least for now, restored a little bit of faith in Melissa McCarthy. It has some fun banter, a few engaging action scenes, and the right balance of parody and homage to the classic spy genre. It’s just a really fun film that had me laughing throughout, and I walked out having thoroughly enjoyed myself. And isn’t that all comedies aim to do?
Critics Rating: 8/10