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SPY Danger Zone!

Spy
Spy

Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham

Of late we have seen a reinvigoration of the spy genre, with the success of the spy-fi Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. slated for later this year, and even a new Bond film in production. Spy marks a differing take on this male dominated genre, being a comedy vehicle for Melissa McCarthy.

With an entire list of active field agents compromised and a tactical nuclear device being sold to terrorists, desk-bound analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) heads into the field for surveillance work. Without the trust of her fellow agent Rick Ford (played straight down the line by Jason Statham) she must infiltrate an arms dealer’s network and regain the device.

Despite the numerous rounds Spy puts down the range, it manages to stray wide of the mark, which is a pity. There is something about the character of Susan Cooper that has some potential, and in the proper vehicle she could really resonate. Perhaps it is McCarthy playing against the traditional male power fantasy that is the high end spy milieu being such a rich ground for comedy, or maybe it is just the gender change that reinvigorates it, making the action seem fresh again. Whatever the case is, Spy gets really close to it, but isn’t quite consistent enough in its humour to pull it across the line. It does show potential, though, and gives some hope for a tighter scripted sequel if the box office goes well.

However, as much as we can hope for the future, Spy does not live up to that potential here. It’s a mixed bag, doing as much wrong as it does right. On the positive side Feig really does know and respect the genre. The parody is lovingly handled and manages to skewer its target very well. He even manages to prove himself a competent action director, handling the typical situations and sequences we would see in a Bond film with a degree of competency. The downside is that in trying to create a plot full of twists it instead veers towards the ridiculous, stretching the film out and robbing it of its comedic potential. Add to this a large cast of characters that the script writers don’t entirely know what to do with and the whole process quickly comes undone.

McCarthy is probably at her most likeable since Bridesmaids. Cooper subverts expectations, starting off competent but lacking in esteem, and proving to be an utter beast. That growth into McCarthy’s traditional foul mouthed confidence really cements the character. Statham is also a pleasant surprise in this showing a great degree of talent as a straight man, parodying his tough guy roles to the hilt. It is a pity that the script seems unsure of where to take him, instead devolving him into Clouseau-like bumbler. The rest of the supporting cast is phenomenal, but again the film often seems unsure of how to use them to their best potential.

In the words of a famous predecessor, “missed it by that much.” Spy gets close, but misses its target.

DAVID O’CONNELL