The Spy Who Dumped Me (3 stars)

The Spy Who Dumped Me

Kate McKinnon is on fire in a quick-witted but sketchily plotted action comedy

'Women can be terrorists too. We can do anything we put our minds to,' Morgan (Kate McKinnon) reminds best friend Audrey (Mila Kunis) in an unusual pep talk as they scramble their way out of yet another scrape. With the bad guys and gals not always obvious, the pair find themselves ducking limber assassins and duplicitous CIA bods on a breakneck trip across Europe – all set into motion by one truly troublesome ex.

The ex in question is Justin Theroux's Drew – a kind of spy-bastard, like Bourne or Bond only smugger, who dumps Audrey by text, re-emerges to reveal his international-man-of-mystery status, before croaking and leaving her with a mission to complete. Plunged headfirst into danger and not knowing who to trust, Audrey and Morgan race to Vienna, pursued by dastardly government agents and various other shady types.

Sophomore director Fogel (who helmed the seldom-seen Life Partners) does an able job, setting a brisk pace and overseeing some punchy action. However, the flash drive-driven plot has been done a thousand times and the excessive location shifts add little beyond a woeful underestimation of the audience's attention span.

Nevertheless, Fogel and David Iserson's sharp, often surreal script ('I went to performing arts camp with Edward Snowden.') keeps things crisp and the film's affectionate send-up of female empowerment mantras strikes just the right note ('Take a moment to own it,' Morgan tells Audrey after a violent altercation). And there are a number of novel touches: from the duo's motor-mouthed outing of each other's most shameful secrets in a bid to avoid torture, to McKinnon's trapeze-based death match.

If much of the supporting cast barely register (Outlander's Sam Heughan makes a brooding but stolid hunk o'spy), McKinnon is on fire, flitting between loose, goofy and staunchly supportive with ease, while her hero-worship of a formidable but underutilised Gillian Anderson, playing a secret service head honcho, is a highlight. Ostensible leading lady Kunis must know she's playing second fiddle but gamely provides McKinnon with a fine foil. The double-crossing errs on the disinteresting but their charming, credible, often hysterical friendship will see you through.

General release from Wed 22 Aug.

The Spy Who Dumped Me

  • 3 stars
  • 2018
  • USA
  • 1h 57min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Susanna Fogel
  • Cast: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Sam Heughan

Audrey (Kunis) finds that her ex-boyfriend is a spy, and she and her best friend Morgan (McKinnon) are forced into completing his mission. Hardly the most original plot, but it’s briskly paced, the script is sharp and often surreal, and McKinnon in particular is on fire, comedically speaking, with ostensible leading lady…