Paul Feig's terrific spy spoof reteams him with Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne
With the Bond franchise reverting to a male M and Moneypenny back behind a desk, the timing couldn't be better for a female-fronted spy spoof. Director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) reteams with muse Melissa McCarthy for a funny, exciting and genuinely ambitious film that fells its targets with deceptive ease.
McCarthy plays CIA operative Susan Cooper, the indispensable office support to super-spy Bradley Fine (Jude Law), who's sent into the field by boss Elaine (a brilliantly withering Allison Janney) when the unthinkable happens. Susan's instructions are merely to track and report on the players in an arms deal, her identities are dowdy and her gadgets are crap but her initiative and capability propel her into the heart of the action.
Although it begins with a takedown of Bond (in the form of Law's hubristic smoothie), Spy also sets its sights on the more gung-ho, muscle-heavy actioner. Since Jason Statham epitomises the oeuvre it's a coup to have him here gamely sending himself up by simply playing to type as rogue agent Rick Ford, a pigheaded brute with a much-boasted-about history of unbelievable exploits.
McCarthy brings her appealingly loose, improvisational style to a film that's a tight ship otherwise, along with physical gusto and so much sweetness and sincerity you'll have her back through every triumph and corresponding moment of indignity. Miranda Hart, Peter Serafinowicz and Bobby Cannavale add value, while Rose Byrne is exceptional as the big-haired, exuberantly outfitted, nuclear-weapon touting Rayna; the scenes where this arrogant villainess verbally spars with the earnest, insecure Susan are the film's finest.
By sidelining archetypal alpha-males and calling them on their sexist assumptions, Spy waves a flag for awkward and underappreciated women in any workplace, wearing its feminism as a badge of honour. And for all of its well-executed set-piece madness it most enjoyably introduces a degree of sense to proceedings, drawing attention to the extreme violence so often skirted around. All this while never taking itself too seriously, Spy is a hugely likeable, perfectly judged parody that provides empowering action and embarrassing incidents in equal measure.
General release from Fri 5 Jun.