SPY: 4 STARS. “Melissa McCarthy has better action scenes than Jason Statham.”
The new movie “Spy” has all the stuff you expect from a secret agent flick. There’s exotic locations, shoot-outs, beautiful women, handsome tuxedoed men and plenty of action. That Melissa McCarthy has better action scenes than co-star Jason Statham is just one clue that it’s also a comedy. The next clue is the constant stream of laughs coming from the ensemble cast.
McCarthy is Susan Cooper, a CIA computer analyst who guides the field agents through their missions. She’s in love with Bradley Fine (Jude Law), a James Bond type—think Daniel Craig without the menace—who rhetorically asks, “Who’s the finest of them all?” after taking down his enemies. As accomplished as Susan is behind-the-scenes, Fine and her boss Agent Crocker (Allison Janney) treat her like a lap dog. When Fine disappears during a dangerous mission Crocker decides they need an unknown agent to complete his assignment and locate a Bulgarian arms dealer named Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne). Cooper, thirsty to avenge Fine’s death volunteers and despite the protests of senior agent Richard Ford (Jason Statham), is sent to Paris to track Boyanov and stop Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) from selling a nuke to a terrorist organization.
In “Spy” McCarthy leaves behind the aggressive but damaged comedic persona of “Identity Thief,” “The Heat” and “Tammy” and is likeable, funny and most importantly, reigned in. “Spy” is funny, but feels so much more disciplined than any of McCarthy’s last handful of films. Director Paul Feig knows when to let McCarthy off the leash—there are some wild slapstick scenes here but he also knows when to pull her back and let the script do the work. She’s appeared in a string of weakly written comedies that required her to pull out all the stops to wring a laugh or two from poor scripts. Here she has the best of both worlds—a funny, smart script and a director who knows how to maximize her talent.
The supporting cast who knows when to work and when to get out of the way ably assists. It’s fun to see Statham have fun with his tough guy persona—“This arm was ripped off,” he says indicating his right arm, “and reattached with this one,” raising his left.—and Byrne’s mastery of one liners gives McCarthy a run for her money in the laughs department.
McCarthy Ferrelled it in several films, replacing humor with manic energy, but she’s in top form in “Spy,” generating genuine laughs and excitement for the upcoming “Ghostbusters” sequel she’s planning with Feig.