McCarthy goes from pushing pen to kicking butt

LAUGH AND LET DIE: McCarthy plays a CIA analyst-turned-field-agent in writer-director Feig's action-comedy, which excels in both genres.


    May 21, 2015

    McCarthy goes from pushing pen to kicking butt

    SPY (M18)

    120 minutes/Action-comedy/Opens today

    Rating: 8/10

    The story:

    There are plenty of moments when male spies mess up, so it's up to Melissa McCarthy's highly skilled (and potty-mouthed) Central Intelligence Agency analyst to save the day.

    THERE are spy movies, spy movie parodies and spy movies that almost parody themselves (never say Octopussy again). And then there is Spy: all comedy, part action thriller, something of an eye-opener (Jason Statham can really do funny) and a fantastic vehicle for star McCarthy.

    She gives a winning performance here as Susan Cooper, a deskbound CIA analyst.

    Susan has lived her life not wanting to rock the boat. She is seemingly content to be the voice in a field agent's earpiece, in particular that of suave 007-esque Bradley Fine (Jude Law), to whom she provides vital, frequently life-saving intel when he is in the field.

    When a mission goes awry and the world's smallest nuclear device is about to be sold on the black market, Susan finds herself on the trail of international criminal Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne) - much to the disgust of fellow agent Rick Ford (Statham), who thinks he should be the one on the job.

    Their frequent run-ins, Susan's own interactions with the voice in the earpiece and her hastily improvised attempts to cosy up to the untrusting, nasty Raina serve as the main springboards for both the laughs and the excitement.

    Writer-director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) hits all the Bond marks and then puts a comedic spin on them, from the opening faux 007 titles to a slightly disturbed version of Q down in the CIA armoury.

    The comedy is often foul-mouthed without coming across as offensive and a good deal of the jokes hit the mark - although the misses are baffling. Langley's vermin-infestation problem, for example, doesn't seem to have a point and just lingers in the background until it's forgotten.

    Still, there's no denying that you'll most likely bust a gut laughing. The surprising part is that the action scenes, including a terrific kitchen fight sequence, are not bumble-fests or half-heartedly executed, but actually pretty cool and impressive.

    A lot of Spy's success can be credited to the in-sync combination of Feig smartly calling the shots behind the scenes and McCarthy's versatility in front of the camera, as she slickly reveals more and more of her character's dangerous and quick-thinking side.

    But it's Statham who is the big revelation of hilarity, with his hard-as-nails Agent Ford constantly bragging about incredible exploits while being a bit of a dunderhead.

    Unfortunately, something has to give and Allison Janney and Morena Baccarin are all but wasted in their tiny roles.

    By no means a spoof, Spy is that rarity, an action-comedy that dwells in two worlds and does both of them proud. Do watch out for the post-credits coda.