Melissa McCarthy’s last big blockbuster was the poorly received 2014 comedy Tammy, which she also co-wrote. Yet despite reactions to that film, McCarthy has scored a major comeback with her action propelled thriller Spy.
Spy is a movie fueled with adrenaline, heart and consistently delivered humor that makes it one of the more entertaining action comedies in recent years. Combining aspects of 007 classics, Get Smart and to some extent Men in Black, writer-director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) provides viewers with a smart and laugh out loud popcorn flick experience.
The movie stars McCarthy as CIA analyst Susan Cooper, who’s also an unsung hero of the agency. She and her partner Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a top notch field agent, make for the perfect team as they take down every terrorist and fugitive threatening the country’s safety, with her being his eyes and ears.
Yet when Fine falls off the grid and terrorists issue a nuclear bomb threat, Cooper volunteers to leave her desk job and gather inside information from the CIA’s enemies, the logic being that she is unknown and as such can avoid attention. This decision does not sit well with veteran and hotheaded Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham).
As Cooper’s mission takes a series of unexpected twists and turns, she turns her attention to Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), a classically sinister nemesis who also manages to be at the center of some of the movie’s funniest scenes. In a race against the clock, Cooper must find out where the bomb is before it’s too late.
McCarthy has never been one to shy away from jokes about her appearance in her own movies, and Spy is no different. While not the driving force of the film’s humor, lines like Ford calling her character a cafeteria lady are prevalent throughout. And instead of getting some cool secret identity, Cooper’s undercover disguises include a single mom and an old cat lady. It works so well here because while the bad guys see her as nothing, she turns out to be more imposing and butt kicking than half the agents they’ve ever come across.
On that note, the movie does deliver some truly excellent action sequences. While certainly a comedy, Spy is not a spoof of action thrillers, as Feig’s brilliant style is visceral in its execution and gains momentum as the story progresses. There are enough street chases in Europe, shootouts, fist fights, knife fights, airplanes and helicopter scenes to make every Bond fan love this film.
And while McCarthy is easily the highlight of the movie, the supporting cast members in Spy are just as great. Byrne (X-Men: First Class) has a real knack for playing a convincing and intimidating villain. Her Boyanov has a Cruella DeVille essence to her with her remorseless facial expressions and sleek persona, which provides a nice contrast to Cooper’s less than glamorous appearance and blunt manner of speech. Some of the script’s best exchanges are between these two characters.
Statham also gives one of his best performances as the trash-talking and full of himself Rick Ford. While Ford could’ve easily been a redneck like caricature, Feig and Statham give him a life of his own which make his scenes delightfully entertaining, along with Peter Serafinowicz (Guardians of the Galaxy) as a corky agent who desperately wants to hook up with Cooper. And for Firefly fans, Morena Baccarin makes an appearance as well.
There is a bit too much material and double crossing in the third act which likely could have been reduced. By the time the bullets start flying in the climactic finale, it can be difficult to remember which side characters are on and what the bad guys are really after.
Nevertheless, Spy is thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish, combining stellar action with Feig’s witty humor. And if you think McCarthy is overrated and not that funny, think again.