Genre movies tend to have an odd tendency of coming in pairs, be it Dante’s Peak and Volcano, The Cave and The Descent or The Illusionist and The Prestige. Sometimes it’s purely coincidence, other times it’s a cheap attempt at cashing in on another film’s success, and rarely do both movies end up being remembered widely. In early 2015, Matthew Vaughn’s excellent Kingsman: The Secret Service – a homage to spy thrillers – was released to widespread critical acclaim, and now just a few months later director of the future Ghostbusters reboot, Paul Feig (Bridesmaids), has entered the fray with his take on the genre, Spy.
If Kingsman was a well studied, loving homage to the spy movie genre, Spy is its less subtle, broader, yet still funny and surprisingly brutal younger sister. Neither of the two films are particularly subtle, but the humour in Spy is certainly more all encompassing. Any film that casts Miranda Hart in one of its supporting roles is clearly not striving for anything particularly high brow. Whilst Hart scrapes the barrel in her moments of levity, there’s much to like in the performance of lead actress Melissa McCarthy as zero to hero CIA agent Susan Cooper.
It’s on her shoulders that the fate of an operation to stop the sale of a nuclear weapon lies. After years in the “basement” of the CIA as the eyes and brains of the dim, vain and hilarious Agent Fine (Jude Law), Cooper is forced into the field to rescue the floundering operation and soon finds herself in the inner circle of the overtly evil Rayna Boyanov, played by the purposefully hammy Rose Byrne. McCarthy carries the brunt of the film’s exposition with an assured confidence, transforming from a meek back seater, to hard talking, hard hitting super agent convincingly over the course of the movie.
Meanwhile, tracking Cooper’s every move is Jason Statham’s Rick Ford, who encapsulates much of the film’s approach to comedy – he’s loud, brash, crude – and at his best an absolute pleasure to watch. But similarly to the rest of the film’s humour, his jokes can be a bit hit and miss. Thankfully Spy throws its jokes at the audience with such pace and regularity that the duds (and there are a fair few of those) are followed up by winners within seconds, rather than minutes.
Whilst Spy plays for broad humour, its violence is certainly less all inclusive and is likely raise a few eyebrows. Brutal and bloody, it’s surprisingly no holds barred, with McCarthy handling the action deftly. As Paul Feig does so well, he’s created yet another strong female lead in Susan Cooper and again McCarthy proves that she is the go to actress for the roles he creates for a reason (with this being the third time the pair have worked together).
Ultimately the broad approach to Spy’s spoofing on the titular genre leads to a lack of depth, meaning that it falls into its older brother Kingsman’s shadow. But it certainly shouldn’t be forgotten like The Cave, The Illusionist or (to a lesser degree) Dante’s Peak. It might not be as refined as its spiritual sibling, but it certainly has a fair amount going for it – if you enjoy efficiently executed action and occasionally slapstick comedy, you can’t go far wrong with Spy.
Melissa McCarthy teams with director Paul Feig once more to spoof classic spy thrillers of yore in this brash and ballsy comedy. It may not be subtle, but it certainly is funny more often than not.
Rating (out of 5):