Spy (2015) – Review

“SPY”

Paul Feig returns after a small absence with his next comedy, having previously directed Bridesmaids and The Heat. The thing about Bridesmaids and The Heat were that they are pretty good comedies, but they were hardly ground breaking, they weren’t exactly laugh out loud comedies and almost certainly you could forget them almost as soon as you had watched them. However that didn’t change the fact that I was willing to give this comedy a chance especially considering its cast list was pretty good, or at least decent and it’s nothing to do with the fact that the only other thing coming out this week-end was another Insidious movie and I haven’t even seen the first one and couldn’t be bothered to watch the other two back. Yes, absolutely nothing to do with that!! However, if you read my Twitter posts last week you will know that one of my favourite film reviewers, Filmbrain gave this film some good marks so I was slightly optimistic about seeing the film. So, let’s see how it turned out in the end.

Spy’s plot is that a desk jockey for the CIA Susan Cooper (played by Melissa McCarthy) is feeling underwhelmed with her life especially when the agent she works for, Bradley Fine, (played by Jude Law) is practically James Bond 2.0. She, however gets an opportunity to prove herself when Bradley takes part in a botched mission, that results in his death at the hands of Rayna Boyanov (played by Rose Byrne) daughter of crimelord Tihomir Boyanov who now has access to a small portable nuclear device which can go off at any time and she is planning to sell it to the highest bidder, what’s more, there is a leak in the CIA and they now know every agent on the inside, so in order to go under-cover they need someone who is un-known to the CIA and Susan volunteers despite her lack of field experience. The CIA goes with it, but this mission is not going to be as easy as she thought or as glamorous as she was hoping. Spy’s plot is very basic, but it would need to be because it doesn’t need to be too complicated. This is a Spy comedy after all, not an actual Spy film, even if it does kind of want to pretend to be one at times, not helped by the fact that about ten minutes into the film we are treated to a Bond style opening which is competent and wouldn’t look completely out of place in a Bond film, but it definitely suggests that the tone they are going for, which, again like Kingsman feels like rather interesting timing considering that we are getting another James Bond film later this year and it’s for that reason alone that I think this film will probably be forgotten. It’s coming out between Kingsman and Spectre and it doesn’t really have the ability to compete with the previously released Kingsman which I reviewed back in February for the site and I am doubtful it will be able to compete with Spectre when that comes out later this year.

On it’s own merit Spy is actually not half bad. The plot itself owes a lot to Skyfall, particularly with the whole agents identities being made public aspect of it, and as a result several people have been compromised. It never goes fully all out with it however, like Skyfall did and that’s an issue that I think really plays it. The whole plot feels really far fetched to begin with. There is seriously no rookie agents that are un-known to the majority of the CIA that can be pushed into this mission? Someone straight out of school!! Hell I would have expected someone like Eggsy from Kingsman, surely they have some sort of programme like that going!! No, we have to get out this woman who has only done a small amount of field training! I’d say it’s slightly far fetched, but not to the instance that you will not be able to watch it, especially considering that the plot gets pretty good and engaging especially after we drop the whole Melissa McCarthy disguising herself as a pretty cat lady joke pretty early on. If you have watched the trailers and were going into this film expecting that to be the long running gag in this film, I am sorry to say you are going to be disappointed, it doesn’t go on for that long, but it’s actually to the film’s benefit, the gag really doesn’t work all that well and it’s especially evident in the fact that the writers knew that this was bad considering how fast they drop it. Look Melissa McCarthy is actually a really good looking actress and it’s really hard to believe that they went with this joke considering it doesn’t even really work on a lot of levels. With all that being said though, the gags often do hit, they are not laugh out loud funny but they will get a chuckle out of you and I would say there are definitely worse comedies out there and on a lot of levels I was thoroughly entertained by the film, which I think is down to the characters. Paul Feig is excellent at writing good characters and that’s where a lot of the charm of his previous comedies Bridesmaid and The Heat came from. Once again he manages to keep that charm with the characters, particularly Mellisa McCarthy’s character, Susan who is really interesting and a great main character who you really want to root for the entire film. She is not a bumbling idiot which would have been the easiest route to go down with this sort of film, she is actually somewhat competent and has a need to prove herself which I think will really hit a chord with a lot of people. The writers give her some decent jokes that don’t make us laugh at her expense, which again would have been easy to do. The gags for the other characters also work very well and they are enjoyable. Jude Law isn’t really given enough funny things to do in his role, which is a shame as I think he could have pulled off the comedy, but he is essentially playing a straight man in this role. Miranda Hart, does a good job playing Susan’s best friend and fellow desk jockey Nancy, is actually funnier than I was expecting her to be, but I don’t think this will be her break out part into Hollywood, she’s not bad or anything, in fact a lot of the time I think she is funnier in this than she is in her BBC sitcom, but I don’t think the writers really knew how to utilise her to her best, though she does get one of the funniest lines towards the end of the movie. I also would say that Rose Byne makes an excellent early villain, it’s just a shame that the film never continues with it and by the end she is cast aside for another villain who just isn’t as good. The funniest lines definitely go to Jason Statham, playing fellow CIA agent Rick Ford, and the writers have obviously seen a lot of Jason Statham movies and know exactly how to make him a parody of himself and his character is worth the price of admission alone, but Paul Feig is smart enough to know how not to over expose Jason in this role as he would have potentially tipped into very annoying and the gags may not have worked as well as they would have liked. Not all the gags hit however. Melissa McCarthy definitely gets much better material in the second half of the movie than she does in the first and some of them really don’t hit particularly well, especially the odd cameo of 50 cent whose casting feels really bizarre, guess he was getting tired of producing his own rubbish movies so he decided to have a chance at being in something that might have been good!!! Also there is an Italian agent played by Peter Serafinowicz whose gags all result in the fact that he is overly sexed up and tries to get off with anything that has boobs and they are the worst gags of the movie, they may not be at the level of epic movie or scary movie bad, but it definitely feels like Paul was trying to make an Italian Keith Lemon, which is a shame because Peter Serafinowicz is a really good comedic actor, though I don’t think Paul Feig realises that Serafinoicz is better at playing a straight man rather than a funny man. I think the film also missed an opportunity to make a joke of the fact that half the actors in the CIA are British actors, in fact Melissa McCarthy is one of the few Americans actually in the film and as a result they never really give an explanation to why Miranda Hart and Jason Statham, who don’t lose their accents, unlike Jude Law are working for the CIA. It’s just as baffling as when Tom Hardy did the same thing in This Means War, though I am not comparing those two movies, this movie is a lot better than This Means War. Also, unlike the two ditzy girls who were sitting behind me in the cinema who would not shut up, I definitely could see the plot twist coming from the start of the film, and I am doubtful that that many people will miss it. There are some surprises after the reveal, however, it didn’t fully work, it feels like twists that have been taken from several of The Mission Impossible Movies and more damningly from the second Johnny English Movie, once again though, this film is a lot better than Johnny English Re-born.

I feel like I have been a bit too harsh on this movie, this film’s plot is actually a decent parody of Spy films and Melissa McCarthy and the rest of the cast get particularly good jokes and I also think there is some excellent chemistry between Melissa McCarthy and Rose Byrne and I think they would make an excellent double act in future films. The plot was actually somewhat enjoyable and it is better than I thought it was going to be and a lot more of the gags hit than they did miss which is a lot better than can be said for most comedies that seem to be coming out at this point in time.

In relation to the cast the only weak performance I didn’t really enjoy was Peter Serafinowicz, but I think that is more down to a writing issue, he is trying hard with the material he has got, but it’s just not brilliant material and his Italian accent is terrible. Even Mario from the Super Mario Brothers would be telling him that this is getting slightly offensive. Not to mention the fact it is terrible and you can clearly hear his actual accent coming through!! The rest of the cast do a pretty good job. Jude Law is a pretty good straight man and works well as a secret agent and Rose Byrne makes an excellent villain even though the writers weren’t fully in to making her a full time villain for the risk that she would lose a lot of the chemistry she has with McCarthy, which as I mentioned was pretty good, and while we are on it Melissa McCarthy is once again proving she is a very good comedy actress and manages to work this material to the full degree that it needs and she really delivers an excellent performance. Jessica Chaffin does an excellent job as their boss Sharon and despite the fact that she wasn’t in it long I did enjoy Morena Baccarin as Karen Walker, but by far, the best performance in the entire film is Jason Statham. He is absolutely having a ball with this role and completely takes the ‘michael’ out of himself. Honestly he has not been this good in years and his performance is, as I said before, well worth the price of admission alone, but for the love of god ‘do not make a spin-off of this character’ the whole reason it works is that he is not over exposed in the film. I think the reason we get so many good performances out of these people is that Paul Feig is really good at working with his actors and knows how to get great comedic performances out of actors who normally play very straight roles, but when you have got someone who normally takes themselves very seriously like Jason Statham it’s very difficult to get them to come out of their shells and I honestly thought that Statham wouldn’t do so well with this comedic role, but he can really do it, if you were disappointed by his performance in Fast and Furious 7 this is one to check out. Overall very good cast and they were given great performance through some excellent direction. While I am at it, I would also say that Miranda Hart does a pretty good performance in this film, even though I don’t believe this is going to be her break into Hollywood, though I would give her another chance in another film rather like this in the future, she definitely works as a comedic actress and Paul Feig knew how to get the best out of her.

Now let’s move on to the film’s cinematography and action scenes. Now the cinematography is pretty good, especially considering that most of the film was shot on location in Rome, Budapest and Paris, not in that order. The film risks being a massive tourist board advert for these locations, but they don’t get overly exposed and the film knows when to pan back and get back to the characters. The cinematography treats the film very seriously, as if they are actually making a James Bond style film. The shots were not terribly bad, especially the action sequences, which actually were really good. They weren’t as good as Kingsman, but they were well done, and would not look incredibly out of place in a regular Bond film. Melissa McCarthy really suits the martial arts scenes pretty well, Statham doesn’t get that much action, but when he does, he does pretty well, even though one of those scenes is shot half in the dark which is a bit of an issue considering that in the trailer it was completely bright and than annoyed me on a few levels. Though it was all made up for with the shoot out in the plane, even though we defied several laws of physics, when bullets started flying having them all being sucked out of the plane instantly, the scene worked very well. I must say they are some of the better sequences I have seen this year. I certainly got a lot more out of these action sequences that I did out of Taken 3!

Are there that many negatives to Spy? There are quite a few technical negatives particularly on the pacing front, but not as many as I would have thought. It actually was a film that was better than I expected. I outlined most of my negatives within the early part of the review. The biggest fault was the first half wasn’t as good as it’s second, which really improves on it, but I think Paul Feig gets the best out of these actors and this type of plot. The biggest downside, however, is that Paul never hits a film that is going to be that well remembered, he always kind of hits a middle ground and this film is no exception.

Is Spy a laugh out loud comedy? No. Is it an enjoyable film? Yes. You will definitely get some chuckle out of this film. I would recommend at least renting the film when it comes on on DVD if you are at all curious. The film had some excellent performances particularly from Melissa McCarthy and Jason Statham. Paul Feig gives some excellent direction and writes the film pretty well despite the fact that there are parts that don’t fully hit the mark, but I would say it’s a lot better than other comedy films that have come out in recent memory. It does, however, have the unfortunate timing of coming out between Kingsman and Spectre and I think it will get lost in the shuffle between them, and I would say I definitely preferred Kingsman as a film on almost every level and I would go back to that film again before this one. With all that said though, this is a very enjoyable film and I had a great experience in going to see it at the cinema. I would probably recommend it, particularly for it’s action scenes which were better than I was expecting. If you like action comedies, this is probably one to add to your list.

So what were your thoughts on Spy? Did you like or dislike it? I would love to get your opinions if you would like to leave something in the comments section. If you want, you can post in the comments section your answer to my question for this week, which is:

“What is your favourite Jason Statham Movie?”

Also if you want to submit your own review or content visit our how to submit section which will take you through the process and remember that you can now follow me on twitter

Next week the review is coming out slightly earlier as I am going on a business trip for the company and want to make sure my review goes out before I leave.

So join me slightly earlier on Thursday 18 June when I will be reviewing the first of the big Summer Blockbusters “Jurrassic World” Please, Please, Please be good!!

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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Posted in Film Society
One comment on “Spy (2015) – Review
  1. Carly Bailey says:

    I’m so looking forward to seeing this movie. Both me and my husband will provide our comments when we do!

    For the record I have sssoooo many favourite Jason Statham movies to choose from. One of my favourites (mainly because it has my other most favourite person in the world in) has got to be Mean Machine. I also like the Transporter films and of course Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (again for Vinnie Jones reasons).

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3rd July 2019
at 12:30 pm
The Next Axia ASDis 17th July 2019
12:00 pm to 2:00 pm

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