Spy (2015) Movie Review: The Espionage Comedy Gets a Facelift

Drinking Game

Do a Shot: whenever Statham talks about how “badass” he is.

Take a Drink: whenever someone insults someone else.

Do a Shot: for every time someone dies violently.

Take a Drink: for every reference to Boyanov’s hair.

Community Review

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1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

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Movie Review

By: Hawk Ripjaw (A Toast) – 

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) has spent the last decade at her desk, serving as the voice in the earpiece of suave super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law). Cooper secretly loves Fine, something that she’s to insecure to admit and he’s too stupid to pick up on. When a mission compromises both Fine and the identities of the entire CIA, Cooper steps up to infiltrate the inner circle of Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) and stop the sale of deadly nuclear weapons, much to the chagrin of super agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham).

The plot of the movie takes an interesting direction relatively quickly, so I won’t spoil it, but suffice it to say that Boyanov shows up quite fast and there are plenty of opportunities for McCarthy and Byrne to verbally spar.

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A Toast

Feig and McCarthy’s movies all follow the same general comedic blueprint: a crass, overweight woman insults the hell out of everyone. Spy follows this religiously, and includes several other characters all being mean as shit to whomever they lay eyes on. People in this movie are cruel, and nary a minute passes without a character trying to hurt another character’s feelings. The rampant improvising is obvious, and it’s helped by strong editing. This is also Paul Feig’s first script in over a decade, so if he keeps going we are in for a good few years of quality comedies. The movie also doesn’t skimp on the running verbal gags and the occasional gallows humor, either.

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Equally commendable is the physical comedy, which is top notch. Physical comedy is something that appears like it could be easy to pull off, but when both this and Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2 rely on similar gags (fat people falling over) and this does it so much better, it goes to show how challenging it can be, and how much better it can be done.

Surprisingly, the movie’s real secret weapon isn’t Melissa McCarthy (because she unsurprisingly nails it), but Jason Statham. Statham proved that he could be funny with the Crank movies, but with Spy he showcases an impeccable sense of comedic timing. Statham sends up his action movie persona with perfect deadpan delivery as he describes the multitude of gruesome accidents he’s survived as a spy, while simultaneously contradicting those stories by being a hotheaded idiot. Even Statham’s bad movies survive on his charisma, and now that he’s got that spark of comedic talent we can only hope that he taps into that more often going forward.

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The film’s marketing has been a bit off the mark, in that it’s pitched the movie as “HEY LOOK AT THIS FAT IDIOT WOMAN FALLING OVER AND STUFF!” In reality, Cooper is actually a highly capable agent who isn’t given a chance by her colleagues (instead, she’s given a series of embarrassing disguises and gadgets). Sure, she fucks up and falls over several times, but she’s smart and makes for a protagonist that we can root for, not only as her determination comes close to screwing the mission, but as she also shows that she’s a completely competent field agent. It’s a lot better than again, something like Paul Blart or Johnny English, whose overconfidence and ineptitude win them the day completely by accident.

Verdict

Forget Tammy, and mostly disregard the slightly misguided marketing for Spy. This is by far one of the funniest movies to hit theaters in a very long time, and will be strong competition in the genre for the remainder of the year. The writing is hilarious, the direction is sharp, and the whole project is a major step above the spoof genre, in that it doesn’t rely wholly on trying to make fun of something in favor of carving out its own unique identity. What’s even nicer is that this level of quality for a comedy means we no longer have to settle for bottom-of-the-barrel dreck. Hopefully this trend continues.

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