Review of “Spy”

Bradley Fine (Jude Law) is one of the CIA’s top agents; but he admits he couldn’t do his job without the support of CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) who feeds him information through an ear piece.  Fine is sent on a mission to apprehend Raina Boyanova (Rose Byrne), the daughter of an Eastern European arms dealer that Fine recently killed by accidently shooting him in the head when Fine sneezed.  Boyanova has a tactical nuclear device that is available to the highest bidder.  To keep it from falling into the wrong hands, the CIA sent in Fine; however, Boyanova gets the drop on him and kills him.  She knows someone is listening and rattles off the names of all the CIA’s top agents, warning them to leave her alone or they will meet the same fate.  Susan sees and hears the whole thing and cries because she has a crush on Fine.  During a meeting with CIA Director Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) and other CIA agents including the hotheaded Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham), Cooper offers to go into the field since no one knows who she is outside the agency and track Raina to her meeting with arms dealer Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) who has contacts with a particularly dangerous terrorist group.  Ford is livid and insists on going in guns blazing to get the location of the bomb from Raina.  Crocker disagrees and puts the wheels in motion to put Cooper into the field.  Ford quits in disgust.  Cooper is given a new identity that is decidedly not as sexy as she had hoped and is paired up with another analyst who is also her friend, Nancy (Miranda Hart), who will guide her through an ear piece just like Cooper did for Fine.

This is going to be a short review because “Spy” is just about a perfect action comedy.  Melissa McCarthy is perfect in the role of Susan Cooper, a behind-the-scenes gal who just needs that one break to shine and show what she’s got.  McCarthy is a fearless performer who doesn’t mind looking goofy and sometimes unsympathetic in order to sell her character.  McCarthy is given more than just humorous moments in “Spy.”  There are scenes where she must express painful emotions and even announce her unrequited love for a spy that she believes betrayed her and the agency.  McCarthy is able to convey a far more nuanced performance than one might expect from a broad and raunchy comedy.

The rest of the cast is also asked to deliver complex performances and they all shine bright.  Rose Byrne as the main bad guy is brilliant.  She’s supposed to be a cold, aloof and deadly socialite who also is taking over her late father’s criminal empire; however, that veneer of icy perfection is always on the edge of cracking if things don’t go exactly to her liking.  This usually leads to a sting of expletives and some very funny business.  Byrne proved her comedic chops in “Neighbors” with Seth Rogen last year and merely added to her humorous resume with “Spy.”

If there is a surprise from any of the performances it comes from Jason Statham as the powder keg of an agent Rick Ford.  Statham’s performance isn’t that much different than what he did in “Fast and Furious 7” or his “Transporter” movies or any other of his films.  That’s precisely why it’s so funny.  Statham’s Ford is constantly bragging about how he has suffered incredible injuries and everyone he’s ever loved has been killed by the object of his investigations and yet he still manages to get the job done.  The interactions between Ford and Cooper after his stories reach a point to extreme silliness are some of the film’s best scenes.  While these two characters are at constant odds with each other the chemistry between McCarthy and Statham is undeniable.  They obviously enjoy playing with each other and I’m sure the DVD will be filled with outtakes featuring the pair.  Those may be the funniest parts of the movie we’ll have to wait for.

If the film has a weakness, and it’s tiny, it’s the stunt work during some of the action scenes.  The actual stunts themselves are great; however, when the action is supposed to be carried out by McCarthy’s character and it’s obviously a stunt person wearing a wig and matching outfit, it pulled me right out of the film.  This only happens a time or two but it is so obvious it is jarring.  There is also a stunt near the end of the film where the replacement of McCarthy is far more seamless but the stunt itself makes it clear someone other than the star is doing it.  It’s a tiny quibble but I wanted to point it out so you can be on the lookout for more bad stunt doubles when you see the film.

“Spy” is rated R for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content including brief graphic nudity.  There are several fights mostly of the acrobatic variety.  Some are bloody including seeing a knife stabbed through a woman’s hand.  There is also a fight scene where a man has his ankle graphically broken when it is stomped on.  There are also a couple of vomit scenes.  There are a couple of scenes where a foreign agent gets very handsy with McCarthy’s Cooper.  There is also a sex act briefly shown but there is no nudity.  I cannot remember any nudity in the film at all.  Foul language is common throughout the film.

“Spy” is about the most consistently funny film I’ve seen in a long time.  While there are some action scenes and shots of the skyline of whatever European city the story takes us to, there is very little wasted time getting to the next set up of jokes or physical humor.  The entire cast is given a chance to show off their comedic abilities and no one disappoints.  Even the characters that are playing it as straight as possible deliver significant laughs regularly.  It is the kind of action comedy that should be studied by everyone in Hollywood and copied relentlessly.  Writer/director Paul Feig should receive every possible award for this gem of a film.  See it then see it again so the movie industry knows this is the kind of film they should be making more of if they want to have a nice fat bottom line.

“Spy” gets a very enthusiastic five stars.

Next week only one film opens in wide release, so I’ll be reviewing “Jurassic World.”

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send email to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

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