Friday, June 5, 2015

SPY Review - Javi's Take

Director: Paul Feig.
Writer: Paul Feig.
Actors: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law.
Synopsis: When an agent goes missing, a bookish CIA analyst must go undercover to stop a nuclear bomb.

This review originally ran at Central Track. 

There are myriad reasons to be skeptical about SPY -- yes, even in spite of the fact that director Paul Feig has been on fire since BRIDESMAIDS and THE HEAT, and that he previously worked with his star here, Melissa McCarthy, on both of those films, which would seem to indicate that the two have a strong working relationship.
The main cause for concern, really, is the premise itself. We get a spy comedy every few years, and most fall flat by just copying what James Bond did and adding in some slapstick.
Then, on some levels, there's McCarthy herself. The loud and crude persona she flashed in BRIDESMAIDS and TAMMY has become her de facto movie mode of late. And frankly? It's really annoying.
Bless Feig, then, for noticing the McCarthy fatigue and making her character much meeker and quieter this time around. In SPY, McCarthy's a mousy type who slowly but surely gains the confidence to become the badass spy she needs to be.
Best of all, though, is that this character's progression affords McCarthy the chance to flash a little acting range here.
The script itself deserves all sorts of props. Spy is just so charmingly written, it's impossible not to wear a smile throughout its 120-minute run time. It's a smart film, too, in that it lampoons the genre more gracefully than most, while also throwing more twists in than most spy comedies might.
Basically: You may think you have the movie pegged -- either heading into it as I did or, hell, even once you've sat down and the film's started rolling -- and then, boom, what you get is something totally, impressively different.

And McCarthy really is great in it. In the face of a stacked supporting cast that includes Jude Law, Jason Statham and Rose Byrne, she just completely carries this film. Her Susan Cooper is a CIA analyst who assists filed agents like Law's Bradley Fine with real-time intel on enemy locations and exit strategies. Then, when Fine goes missing during a mission involving the sale of a nuclear bomb, she'd forced to go undercover to track the sellers. At its core, Spy is ultimately a fish-out-of-water tale, and McCarthy's subtle evolution throughout the course of the film is hugely endearing.

Statham in particular turns in a winning performance, too. He's kind of made for this role, actually. Spy is unexpectedly violent, which fits right into his wheelhouse, of course. But the film also allows him the chance to flash his sharp dialogue talents and strong comedic abilities. There are some really funny quotable lines throughout the whole movie, but Statham's moments register best; he shamelessly steals every scene he's in here. As Rick Ford, a stand-in for the Jason Boune-style spy, he's hilariously arrogant and constantly boasting about his many escapes from death -- y'know, like the time he fell off a plane only to be hit by another plane mid-air.
You expect those kind of laughs with Feig at the helm. His action sequences, however, will take you by surprise. Seems the experience he gained in THE HEAT prepped him well for this go: The takes are long enough for you to follow the action, and it's easy, too, to see the relative position of the people involved; minus the glimpses you'll catch of McCarthy's clear stunt double, the best fight scenes in spy rival the top ones we've seen so far from this year's crop of more straight-forward action movies. If nothing else, consider this a good sign of things to come when Feig takes over the GHOSTSBUSTERS franchise he's been promised.
If there's a weakness with spy, it's that the plot feels at times a little too episodic and, perhaps, a tad too complicated. But those concerns are easily waved off given the film's other, aforementioned strengths, as well as the face that Spy also has some interesting, subtle commentary to share when it comes to gender politics in the workplace.
To be honest, there's very little to dislike about Spy. The action is well-shot and exciting, the plot will keep you on your toes, and the comedy is laugh-out-loud funny to the point where you'll miss out on a lot of dialogue.
Put simply: Spy will sneak up on you.

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