Spy, film review: Time to leave spy spoofs out in the cold

Paul Feig, 120 mins Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne

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The Independent Culture

The latest comedy from Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy (of Bridesmaids fame) has some raucously hilarious moments interspersed with some horribly clumsy ones. It’s a spoof espionage movie, with McCarthy playing a desk-bound CIA analyst sent into the field on the track of an arms dealer.

Some of the humour is pretty feeble, in the vein of Austin Powers or of Johnny Depp’s Mortdecai. However, as a general rule, the louder, cruder and more abrasively McCarthy behaves the funnier she becomes. You can’t help but admire the gusto with which she utters expletive-laden dialogue and beats up antagonists with kitchen knives and frying pans. Some of the best scenes come when she poses as a bodyguard to the haughty villain Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne, enjoying herself in high heels and big hair).

Plenty of Brits send themselves up in the supporting cast. Jason Statham is good value as a dogged, sexist and dim-witted agent, not that far removed from the characters he has had played for “real” in many of his earlier movies. Jude Law plays a spy who loves himself and takes McCarthy for granted. Miranda Hart is McCarthy’s best friend from the Agency, a scatty and subversive figure who eventually goes out in the field herself.

The action shifts around Europe in a way more befitting a travel programme than a spy movie. Feig throws in explosions, chases in cars and on scooters, and aerial stunts involving McCarthy clinging to a helicopter. It’s refreshing to have an action movie in which the women get the best lines and perpetrate the most violence. The problem is that spy movies have been spoofed so many times that the jokes often feel as tatty and old as the CIA’s rodent-infested headquarters.

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