Before they take on the all-girl Ghostbusters reboot, Melissa McCarthy and writer-director Paul Feig hook up to pastiche the none-more-male world of spy movies.
Jude Law is the dashing spy of the title until he messes up by shooting the only man who knows where a stolen nuke is hidden and then ends up getting bumped off by the nuke dealer’s ruthless daughter. Stepping up to take over from Law’s agent is the woman who has been sitting in a bat-infested CIA basement, yelling commands into his ear in order to keep him one step ahead of his enemies. Melissa McCarthy is the mild-mannered desk jockey who emerges from the basement to track down Rose Byrne, playing the Bulgarian arms dealer who can help her find that missing nuke.
Along the way, McCarthy is aided, but mostly hindered by Jason Statham’s cocky ex-CIA agent and Miranda Hart’s fellow basement dweller. She must overcome the disrespect of her colleagues in order to regain her self-worth and hopefully stop the annihilation of an American city at the hands of terrorists.
Spy is a showcase for McCarthy’s comedic range but by keeping her constrained for much of the first half of the movie Feig misses a trick. The lonely, sad, lacking in self-confidence and love struck McCarthy that fawns over Jude Law’s superspy and is scared to stand up for herself is far less fun than the unleashed McCarthy of the second half. This is much closer to the woman we all fell in love with in Bridesmaids. When McCarthy finally gets to kick ass and drop an arsenal full of foul-mouthed insults on anyone in her way, it’s like an eruption of awesomeness and Spy finds its groove.
The Bond references come thick and fast with sexy opening credits, slick production values and some fight choreography making this a convincing blockbuster, but it takes McCarthy unchained to give Spy the kick it needs. When McCarthy and Statham are bad mouthing each other, sparks fly and Spy has its fair share of hilarious moments. With some brutal comic violence and even more wince-inducing put-downs, it’s a shame that by the end Spy resorts to a 50 Cent cameo for laughs. Also, more of Rose Byrne and less of Miranda Hart would always be welcome.
While Feig and McCarthy are on fine form, Statham steals every scene he’s in and gets the biggest laughs in the script. It’s a shame, as if Feig and McCarthy can just forget about making McCarthy a sympathetic frumpy figure and instead let her cut loose like a Tasmanian Devil, Spy could have been bigger, ruder and funnier from start to finish.