If anyone was worried for the upcoming female Ghostbusters, don’t be. Melissa McCarthy proves with Spy that she is the reigning comedienne, with action chops to boost. Paul Feig’s hits another feminist win with Spy, a globe-trotting comedy thriller with outstanding performances and hilarity at every turn.
McCarthy’s critics contend that she plays a lot of the same characters. While I won’t dispute that claim, in Spy she spins this to her advantage. Susan Cooper is a CIA analyst, who after a mission with her agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) goes awry, volunteers to go into the field to prevent a nuclear attack. It’s a simple setup with a simple underdog, unsung heroes theme, but it works.
Cooper is adept as an analyst, which gives her promotion a credibility of sorts, and she proves to be more than adept as an agent. This characterization is a win for McCarthy haters, and as Amy Nicholson of Village Voice put it, “…for once, the joke isn’t on McCarthy, but on everyone who can’t see her skills.” Her only fan, Nancy, played by the hysterical Miranda Hart, believes in her as her best pal, while Cooper faces opposition from everyone in the CIA including her boss (Allison Janney) and fellow agents (Jason Statham, Morena Baccarin).
Spy works as a female friendship film, but also as a genre-spoof and well-oiled action comedy. From the Bond opening credits sequence to the tight fight sequences (a kitchen brawl goes from hilarious to tense in seconds), Spy is the full package. Double crossings, conspiracies, bloody deaths are the norm in the R-rated flick, and it works. I was guessing until the end who did what, and the great characters kept me interested until the very end.
The great Rose Byrne delivers as Rayna Boyanov, a villain who I think will be remembered for a long time (sequel, please). Her thick accent and her chemistry with McCarthy flies off the screen, and the two deliver the most laughs per second. If there’s one complaint, it’s that there’s almost too many supporting characters. From agent Rick Ford played with surprising hilarity by Statham to MI6 agent Aldo who is smitten with Cooper, things get a bit crowded at times, and some characters remain underdeveloped. But when the laughs deliver, I’m not too upset about it.
Spy is an outstanding action comedy, and McCarthy’s best film since Bridesmaids. The writing is terrific, blending vulgar comedy with action thrills, and the film rarely stalls. Director Feig is completely committed to this film, making a spy movie that flips genre conventions 180 degrees, but also delivers more than it needs to on a character level, giving us a lovable and relatable lead that makes Spy miles better than what I was anticipating.