Spy marks director Paul Feig’s and actress’s Melissa McCarthy’s third partnership in filmmaking. Their first film together, Bridesmaids received positive reviews and various awards. Their second film The Heat had a more mixed response but was still fairly positive. Can they pull it off again in Spy?
Spy stars Melissa McCarthy as CIA analyst Susan Cooper, who is tasked with going undercover to find the location of a wayward nuclear bomb that is soon going to be sold to a terrorist group. The film also stars Jude Law, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz, Alison Janney, Rose Byrne and for some bizarre reason, 50 Cent.
Let’s start with the good. The pre-credit sequence, involving Jude Law and Melissa McCarthy on a mission to try and retrieve the nuclear bomb that sets up the entire film is fun, and adds a nice flavour of old-school James Bond to the film. Even though there is an overly long joke involving bats and Melissa McCarthy which doesn’t work, the first couple of minutes are good pulpy fun. The title sequence after said opening is also good, again bringing in a flair of James Bond to the film.
There are also several fight scenes peppered throughout the film and each one is film brilliantly. Taking some inspiration from earlier 2015 film John Wick, the hand to hand combat in the film is bone-crunching and satisfying. Director Paul Feig does have an odd habit of shooting most fight scenes from a bird’s eye view, but it doesn’t destroy the scenes too much. There is even a homage to Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Volume 1 during a fight sequence, but at least Kill Bill as a good film. Spy is not.
Where to start? Okay, I like Melissa McCarthy, she seems like a very nice person in interviews and such, but here she fails dramatically. McCarthy sheds her usual typecasting of the loudmouth (e.g. Bridesmaids, The Heat and Tammy) for a more timid approach, but halfway through the film she changes back to her usual role. It’s really annoying to see a talented actress keep getting typecasted in the same character type, but writer/director Paul Feig seems to think otherwise. Most of the jokes are at McCarthy’s expense, but they all seem to be recycled from Feig’s earlier films, leaving Spy seemingly with no new jokes.
Most of the women in the film are portrayed rather poorly, ranging from ditzy and clumsy to evil, scantily clad murderers who behave like petulant children having a tantrum. Even though by the end of the film McCarthy is gun-toting badass, the film still makes jokes about her appearance and ability to perform her duty competently. The exception to this would be Alison Janney as the head of the CIA, but she hardly clocks in ten minutes in the two hour run time.
The men meanwhile are all obnoxious idiots who are all in love with themselves. Jude Law is your usual spy type, but during his time in the film he is always fixing his hair in reflective objects and smugly smiling. Jason Statham is a nutcase whose entire dialogue seems to be anecdotes about nearly dying and a remarkable number of swear words that would rival The Wolf of Wall Street. The character I had the most trouble coming to terms with however was Peter Serafinowicz’s Aldo, an Italian whose wandering hands are the subject of many jokes. Every time he opened his mouth, the words spoken were usually some sleazy come-on to McCarthy, which along with his wandering hands, became distasteful and unnerving pretty quickly.
The script meanwhile has flaws with how it brings in its villains and drops them again. We are introduced to several key players early on, who are all involved with the nuclear bomb that is at the centre of the film. The problem is Spy doesn’t focus on any of them apart from Rose Byrne, leaving us with some rather bland stereotypical villains. Some are no sooner produced from the ether before swiftly returning mere minutes later, leaving us wondering why they were even conjured up in the first place.
The film also has some pretty terrible continuity flaws. Clothing, markings on the actors and the geography of the sets all disappear and reappear during the film, leaving me wondering whether Paul Feig even cared about Spy while he was filming it.
In summary, Spy is just bad. While the fight scenes are surprisingly good and there are a few funny lines which raised the barest of smiles from me, Spy doesn’t deliver anything fresh. But who am I kidding; this film is going to make a boatload of money isn’t it?
Score: 1/10 The weakest film of 2015 so far.