SPY (2015) : Movie Review
SPY : When SPY was first announced, my immediate instinct said “skip it.” It’s no secret that I quite like Jason Statham, but I’m not compelled to see absolutely everything in which he appears (for example, EXPENDABLES 2 convinced me that I didn’t need to see EXPENDABLES 3). And I really didn’t feel like seeing him play second banana to Melissa McCarthy. Now… McCarthy herself? Interesting case. I certainly have nothing against her–it just tends to work out that her well-reviewed films are the sort of movies I don’t go see on my own (I’m sure BRIDESMAIDS is very funny, but I’m simply not drawn to wedding comedies unless they’re uber-dark like VERY BAD THINGS), and as for IDENTITY THIEF and TAMMY? The horrible reviews AND the segments I was exposed to on cable convinced me that McCarthy would be another shrill annoyance in the context of SPY.
Ah, but then came the string of good reviews (seemingly across the board), all of which praised McCarthy and all of which made a point to mention that Statham was hilarious in his supporting role. Oh, all right, then… I decided to check it out, and I’m not sorry I did.
Plot: The adept and adoring CIA agent Susan Cooper (McCarthy) has allowed herself to be “sniped” by the vain, insensitive super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law), always having his back via remote control while he goes out and has all the actual adventures. He’s quite right when he tells her that he couldn’t do his job without her, yet she’s really nothing more than a glorified gofer in his eyes. But a vital mission involving the secret location of a portable nuclear bomb hits a snag when the bad guys prove they know the identity of each and every agent that the CIA can send after them. However, since nobody knows Susan Cooper…
Susan certainly has a bigger cross to bear than Bradley’s condescending flattery (she’ll still do absolutely anything for him)–since nobody thinks that a woman belongs in the field (well, unless she’s a shapely, sexy femme fatale, of course), she’s saddled with a series of frumpy cover identities and embarrassing accoutrements while out on her “track and report ONLY” globe-trotting mission. But while she may be emotionally blinded, she is neither stupid nor unprepared for action. Agent Rick Fox (Statham) thinks otherwise, of course–even though he’s one of the “made” agents and officially off the case, he can’t resist going rogue and dogging Susan’s every step, all the while trying to impress and intimidate her with an outrageous laundry list of all the ultra-macho stunts, adventures and dangers HE’s endured…
So… obviously we have yet another blatant Bond pastiche right on top of KINGSMAN. Too soon, perhaps, but it’s interesting that while we’ve more than accepted the revisionist Daniel Craig character we’ll never stop pining for a taste of good, old-fashioned Connery-style Bond (it’s no coincidence that they recently put GOLDFINGER back on the big screen). It’s also interesting that today’s ironic/nostalgic takes on the material push it into the “R” realm as Eon Productions never would have dared. SPY succeeds with McCarthy’s sensitive side (not to mention the way she works her way into the entourage of villainous Rose Byrne when all she really wants is to kill her) and Statham’s bluster, and there are plenty of good sight gags (I especially liked the one when McCarthy got up the nerve to jump her motorcycle over an obstacle blocking the alley).
Now, the spy story itself? It’s played as well as it can be, but the series of “surprises” (who’s a double agent, who’s really on whose side, bla bla bla) are anything but (especially the “big” one, which over 90% of you will peg in the early going–sorry, but that one’s been done to “death,” if you’ll pardon the expression). The violence and gross-out gags are stronger than anything found in classic Bond (but not as extreme as KINGSMAN) but tend to serve a purpose (especially as Susan reacts to the sort of thing she never had to deal with at the office). The film is a tad overlong and weighed down with unnecessary distractions (I’m really not sure what Fifty Cent brought to the table… such celebrity cameos never gel with the genre–you may recall that a scene with Sammy Davis Jr. “as himself” was filmed but CUT from DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, probably for that very reason), but my major complaint may come as a surprise. I’ve never had a personal problem with the liberal use of profanity in films, and we’re not dealing with PINOCCHIO here, after all… but the sheer AMOUNT of obscenities fired off in SPY actually took me out of the movie. Yes, it’s a spoof, and it’s very funny when the Bond-clone (Law, not McCarthy) lets an f-bomb slip in a moment of frustration. But that happens in the VERY FIRST SCENE. It’s also funny when the unassuming McCarthy lets the fury fly. Funny the FIRST time, that is. But the constant flurry of obscenities from McCarthy, Byrne and Statham ultimately did nothing more than call attention to itself, and the film just didn’t need it. I’m the last fellow you’d see calling for censorship, but this particular film COULD have pulled it off as a PG-13 and been every bit as good. Better, in fact.
Fans of the cast will certainly want to see this, but they won’t miss out on anything by holding out for the DVD, either.
The REAL challenge comes next year… can ANYTHING convince me to see a sequel to THE MECHANIC in which Jason Statham co-stars with… Jessica Alba?