Comedic twists on the spy genre are fairly common. It’s easy to subvert a genre that often (but not always) takes itself so seriously and has such global stakes. ‘Spy’ may be simply titled, but we can see if it has something different or special to offer the genre.
Susan (Melissa McCarthy) is a CIA employee who feeds information to spies from the safety and boredom of her desk. The agent she works with most frequently (and her favorite) is the dashing Bradley Fine (Jude Law). When one mission goes awry, and when Fine is apparently killed by Rayna (Rose Byrne), the daughter of a deceased arms dealer, Susan volunteers to go after her. You see, Rayna also has a nuclear device and the information of most of the CIA’s active operatives. This makes Susan invisible to her though after being deskbound for so long, will our hero be up to the task?
A running gag that really works here is the series of unfortunate identities Susan is given. It’s one thing to have an unassuming persona, but these offer no sort of dignity for our heroine. It’s cruelly making fun of the protagonist for their physique and the ease one can assign an uncool persona to them. Low hanging fruit, but occasionally tasty, nevertheless.
It’s very strange that the normally desk-bound Susan starts off so tentatively but while in the field, reveals herself to be a very capable combatant and spy. Given her numerous difficulties with a number of aspects of the position, it would have made a little more sense if she has been committed to either a bumbling Maxwell Smart type or a legitimately well-rounded agent right off the bat. The action sequences which are attempted and pulled off are unexpectedly good.
Things run out of steam by the end. There is a twist which isn’t that shocking at all and the climax definitely feels as though it went through some serious re-writes and agonizing over. As has become the ‘in’ thing, this is also very long at two hours. Even so, the pacing isn’t bad, but comedies are always better if they can be lean.
As has been bemoaned by this Examiner before, McCarthy has been thrust upon us by Hollywood. This has resulted in a number of horrific starring vehicles that the world could have done without. An exception to this was ‘St. Vincent’ but that had her play it straight. As with “Bridesmaids”, Feig uses her effectively, yet broadly. Rose Byrne is funny (though one-note) as a spoiled, potty-mouthed arms dealer. Law plays it straight in a role that still has some secrets. Statham plays his usual tough guy, but over the top and significantly less effective in the field, which is a bit against type.
Special features include: gag reels, features on most of the characters, commentary, gallery and a theatrical trailer.
‘Spy’ is a solid spy comedy with more action than you might expect. It’s hardly genre-defining or overly creative, but it’s a well-made comedy.
Add an extra half star to this review.
Rated R 120 minutes 2016