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Thursday, 14 July 2016

Movie Review: Spy (2015)

Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney  
Genre: Action Comedy Spy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $235 million

Plot: Despite having solid field training, CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent her entire career as a desk jockey, working hand-in-hand with dashing agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Using high-tech equipment and a hidden earpiece, Susan is the guardian angel who helps Bradley avoid danger. However, when Bradley is assassinated by Bulgarian arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne), Susan wrangles her way into her first undercover assignment to help capture Boyanov and avenge Bradley's death. 

'I Spy With My Little Eye, Something Beginning With H - Hilarious'

Having endured Bridesmaids (okay-ish for me), The Heat (which I felt was a disappointment), Tammy (not going to go there) and Identity Thief (which I found hysterical and over the top silly in places & directed by Seth Gordon, who gave us Horrible Bosses), I went into Spy not knowing what type of comedy film I would expect from Melissa McCarthy & director Paul Feig; the least I would have hoped for would have the humour reminiscent of The Heat, and the most that it would be on the similar lines to Identity Thief. Thankfully, I was glad to find out that this was more like the latter, as opposed to the former. Had it been like The Heat, I would've probably switched off. 

One advantage this film has over Identity Thief I reckon is whereas with Identity Thief much of the humour is centred around and generated by Melissa and Jason Bateman's characters, with Spy that is very much dependent on the other cast members; not just Melissa but Jason Statham, Jude, Miranda Hart, Rose Byrne, Allison Janney. This is very much an ensemble cast comedy movie, despite it being not as well known to audiences. 

Not to be confused with that other comedy action film, I Spy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson, which was an easily forgettable (and dreadful) state of affairs by all accounts, 2015's Spy is an American comedy James Bond knock-off and traditional spy movie. Though it is an American, Hollywood production, it does have a very sophisticated British feel to it, which is why so many Brits take to this film a lot, thanks to the Brit additions of actors Jude Law, Jason Statham and comedienne Miranda Hart.

Melissa plays Susan Cooper: a CIA analyst who becomes a top-notch spy. With herself and secret agent, Bradley Fine (Jude Law) as her right- hand man, they make for one hell of a team; in one brief moment there was a sweet scene shared between Bradley and Susan as they dined at a restaurant, only to see her dreams of spending the rest of her life with Bradley being shattered when he presents her with a cupcake necklace, as opposed to an engagement ring. But when Fine is killed by Rayna (Rose Byrne), who is also wanted by the CIA, Melissa is so outraged and hurt by his death, she seeks vengeance and goes undercover to track down her nemesis.  

Here, Melissa McCarthy's character, Susan is much more toned down for once, and it is a good thing as well, as had she'd been as over-the-top and outlandish as her previous characters, it would have put a lot of people off and been very grating. Not forgetting that not only would it ruin the film, but it would have completely overshadowed everything else. Which is what happened with The Heat: Melissa's outlandish antics and in-yer-face, brash type of humour did take me away from the film, whilst the film itself wasn't as funny as I'd expected. Not that I have a problem with Melissa because I like her sense of humour, despite it being crude in nature. Plus, instead of making her a complete butt monkey and fool for us to make fun of, Susan was rather smart and cool and kicked butt too. And as ever, she curses in Spy (F-bombs galore, courtesy of Melissa, Rose Byrne and Jason), but not as much as in her other movies. I loved her banter with Rose Byrne and their verbal one-to-one trade-offs with one another, especially whilst on the plane and in Rayna's office is just hysterical. Though there is a lot of swearing and profanity in this film; besides the F-word, the C-word is mentioned once in this movie by Allison Janney. 

Swearing in comedy movies is a bit of a tricky affair; whereas it can be off-putting and unnecessary, on occasions there are times where it is used to express a person's emotions or feelings, after going through, say a painful experience for instance. Other times, it is used to elicit laughter and that we shouldn't take the film so seriously. It very much goes both ways. 

I'd never have thought that Jude Law and Jason Statham would appear in a comedy farce together, given their previous roles and projects they'd been involved in, but they lent themselves exceptionally well to the cause. Law plays the equally suave, James Bond 007 - type role brilliantly as Bradley Fine (quite a name that is), so much so, he would definitely make for an interesting successor to Daniel Craig. He was charming and it was good to see his fun side in this film, whereas Jason Statham is so funny and hilarious when he starts running his mouth and acting like a tough guy. He plays an experienced agent, hot-head Rick Ford who does his best to get in her way, even by referring to Susan as 'lunch lady', much to her chagrin: performance-wise, he is very much like his action roles in The TransporterCrank and The Expendables movies but acting a bit cockier and arrogant. Rick was a send-up to his action movie characters, he was virtually the straight man to Melissa's wise girl.

Miranda Hart was another surprise hit - I've never really seen her in other TV shows actually, but here in this film, her performance was brilliant: she played Susan's sidekick with a dry and deadpan sense of humour. Rose Byrne was exceptional too as the potty-mouthed villain, everyone did a great job. Also, watch out for a cameo by rapper 50 Cent playing himself.

The full frontal graphic nudity scene was a bit of an unexpected surprise, which came out of the blue, but unlike the other scenes, I didn't find it funny at all & felt it was unnecessary to add that scene. Even if it was used in a comical context, the execution of it was a turn-off. I wouldn't have expected a shot of a guy's penis appearing in a 15 rated movie, it was a bit too risque for me. Alas, I felt the writers and director went a little too extreme on that one. 

But apart from that one event, Spy had me laughing and almost rolling on the floor throughout this movie; so many funny and hysterical lines and slapstick scenes. Combine that with some amusing disguises (one of which Susan looked like Dawn French), adventure, comedy, mystery, action & fight scenes, & you got yourself an entertaining and highly amusing action film. I've never laughed as much before since I saw Identity Thief, but man, I couldn't stop smiling throughout with this one. It definitely has that feel-good factor. 

This was the first movie where Melissa's character has depth - this wasn't really the case with Bridesmaids, where she has more of a supporting role and The Heat. But that is just me speaking personally. 

I also noticed that unlike Identity Thief, The Heat and Bridesmaids, I felt that as I was sitting through this movie that there must have been something about it that made it more widely and commercially appealing to audiences. This wasn't a typically standard, low-key Melissa McCarthy comedy movie, rather it had big budget effects, it had that super spy, James Bond theme that audiences can take to and the humour was more slapstick in tone. It is also argued Spy is more reliant on the action than the comedy: yet I felt there was a good balance between the two. But for me also, the comedy was far more accessible than in her other films, it felt fluid and wasn't forced and the laughs kept rolling in as the film went on. 

Final Verdict:

By discounting the full frontal scene, Spy is still a hilarious and excellent spy comedy movie and one of the funniest I have seen in a long while and is up there with Identity Thief for me as my favourite Melissa McCarthy films. I liked that her character was much more grounded in reality than her other comedy movie roles and that she is smart and can defeat the bad guys. Great and perfect casting, funny scenes and performances, side-splitting moments and lines, it's not often we get comedy movies as funny as this nowadays. Yet it manages to hit the ground running, right from the start, culminating in a few plot twists and an interesting climax. 

Spy is definitely one to add to your film collection if you're not too easily offended, & you enjoy action comedy/comedy movies, especially farce comedies that are your type of thing (bonus points also if you are a fan of Melissa McCarthy).


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