Spy is a vulgar, good-natured feminist riff on the old 007 formula


3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Spy reunites writer-director Paul Feig and Oscar-nominated funny-woman Melissa McCarthy.

McCarty plays meek CIA desk jockey Susan Cooper, providing support to her suave male counterpart Bradley Fine (Jude Law doing Bond, tux and all). A tragic turn of events draws Susan out of the basement, leading her to go undercover, and gives her plenty of opportunity to prove her badassery – and for McCarthy to stretch her comedy chops.

To the film’s credit, Spy mostly avoids simply making fun of Susan herself, socially awkward though she may be, preferring to use her as foil to a host of outrageous characters, including Jason Statham as intense braggart Rick Ford – to wit, “I watched the love of my life fall out a plane and get hit by another plane and Rose Byrne as a horrifically entitled villainess who can’t remember the names of her henchmen.

From pursuing a suspect through the streets of Paris to gambling in a luxury Roman casino, Spy also subverts the old cliches: Susan’s cover stories are distinctly unglamorous – “I look like someone’s homophobic aunt” – and her gadgets range from a poison dart rape whistle to pepper spray disguised as anti-fungal spray, but, by flipping the Bond formula on its head, the film ends up being strangely empowering.

Better natured than Kingsman, less ironic than Austin Powers, Spy aims for playful homage rather than outright parody and mostly hits its target. Brits Miranda Hart and Peter Serafinowicz provide able support as Susan’s gawky colleague Nancy and pervy Italian informant Aldo – as one-note jokes go, it’s a good one – though Bobby Cannavale and Morena Baccarin are given little room to breathe.

Nevertheless, these are characters you want to spend time with, both vulgar and lovable; they might even withstand a couple of sequels. Plus any film that puts Allison Janney in essentially the same role as JK Simmons in Burn After Reading is okay by me. 

Author: robertmwallis

Graduate of Royal Holloway and the London Film School. Founder of Of All The Film Sites; formerly Of All The Film Blogs. Formerly Film & TV Editor of The Metropolist and Official Sidekick at A Place to Hang Your Cape. Co-host of The Movie RobCast podcast (formerly Electric Shadows) and member of the Online Film Critics Society.

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