Movie review: ‘Spy’
Directed By Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Bobby Cannavale, Allison Janney, Peter Serafinowicz, Jude Law
Rated R, Comedy, 119 minutes
Paul Feig wrote and directed “Spy” as a starring vehicle for Melissa McCarthy, but as a bonus, his script provides starring turns to each member of a stellar supporting cast.
McCarthy portrays Susan Cooper, a CIA agent of superior intelligence and inferior self esteem. Susan has allowed her own career to be sidetracked by handsome Bradley Fine (Jude Law), an operative co-opting Susan’s crush to keep her as his mission analyst and “the voice in his earpiece.”
Whether preparing for an operation or out in the field, Fine relies on Susan’s expertise to make him a success. Fantasizing that suave Fine will one day return her feelings, Susan works from a basement cubicle infested with rats, bats and other vermin that “The Company” can’t be bothered to exterminate. Her reward consists of an occasional kind word, a dinner date with him or a tacky gift.
That is, until Susan witnesses Bradley’s demise, his button camera, during an Eastern Europe operation to recover a rogue nuclear bomb possessed by Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne). Determined to take revenge against Boyanov, Susan persuades her snarky supervisor, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), that she should pick up the mission where Fine left off, over the objections of macho MI6 agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham).
While preparing to jet off to Europe, a cover identity is crafted for Susan to be a super-square, cat-crazy, Midwestern tourist whose wigs appear to have been snatched from a 1970s grandma stash. Instructed to merely track and report, Susan ignores the order and soon finds an opportunity to worm her way into Boyanov’s organization as the crime diva’s latest bodyguard.
Meanwhile, Statham’s Rick Ford repeatedly shows up to save the day, but each time it’s Susan who prevents disaster when Ford’s ill-conceived plans go awry.
Tossing her assigned cover and mission orders to the wind, Susan purchases an elegant wardrobe that her own CIA analyst (and best friend) Nancy (Miranda Hart), warns, “you will only be partially reimbursed.” Hart’s tableau of sympathetic faces play well against McCarthy’s embodiment of both confidence and fear, providing great reaction shots to McCarthy’s limitless non-sequitur humor, zingy one-liners and barrel of sight gags. Statham’s send up of his own action-hero character never gets old — he tweaks his performance with a little extra arrogance and intensity, while Law toes the line of daffy debonair. Rose Byrne is the ultimate deadpan villainess, and just to throw a monkey wrench into the works, Peter Serafinowicz shows up as Susan’s European contact, Aldo, a would-be ladies man who gropes Susan’s bosom while engaged in a frantic car chase.
Madcap in the style of Peter Seller’s “Pink Panther” films, the unsteady story line from “Spy” exists merely to showcase the comic stylings of the talented cast. Along with McCarthy’s boundless, clumsy panache, the film works by creating ingenious dynamics between its star and the supporting players. Susan’s interactions with others feel just right, although they’re anything but predictable.
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