SXSW Film 2015 Review: SPY

By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)

Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy are back and they are in top form!  The director who made audiences heartily chuckle with Bridemaids and the supporting actress from that film who delivered a breakthrough comedic performance have returned with a hilarious and sharp-witted spoof on espionage films.  After the mediocre disappointment that came from The Heat, I feel excited and relieved that this talented comedic duo has rebounded with a movie that will make audiences laugh their asses off and will have them talking about the jokes for some time afterward.  Spy may be a spoof on the secret agent movie genre, but it actually features some intense and thrilling action sequences.  With an awesome cast that includes Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart, Jude Law, Peter Serafinowicz, and more, this film may turn out to be the comedy of the summer.

Susan Cooper (McCarthy) works as a desk agent for the C.I.A.  Her task is to back up field agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law).  She serves as the voice in his ear, feeding him technical data, escape routes, and warning him of impending danger.  When one particular mission goes terribly wrong, Cooper begs her superior officer Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) to assign her the task of investigating into the matter for more information.  As Cooper gets in deeper, she must take things a step further which is a huge stretch from being a desk jockey.  To make matters worse, the activities of an angry rogue agent named Rick Ford (Jason Statham) threaten to jeopardize the entire mission.

Feig, who also wrote this comedy gem, has made an exceptional comedy that combines explosive, nail-biting action and beautifully written and performed humor of both the physical and verbal varieties.  I was very happy that McCarthy, who has recently settled for over-the-top caricatures in her movies, actually plays a somewhat realistic character who is almost out of her element.  It also gave me great pleasure to see that her character is not a complete joke and doesn’t serve as the only source of humor.  In fact, this movie has successfully reinvented Melissa McCarthy as a badass action star!  Feig and crew actually deliver some incendiary fight scenes with McCarthy and her stunt doubles.  The superb editing by Melissa Bretherton and Brent White make these scenes work flawlessly.

While Feig has made McCarthy an action hero, he has brought action hero Jason Statham back to a comedic role.  Statham, who began his acting career making comedies with Guy Ritchie (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch) makes a welcome and hilarious return to comedy with a hysterical character that had me in tears.  I love the fact that this role allows Statham to stretch his comedic chops and totally poke fun at the action heroes he normally portrays.  I also enjoyed watching the lovely and talented Rose Byrne portray a wickedly funny villain who also shares some golden moments with McCarthy.  Besides Statham and Byrne, Peter Serafinowicz and Miranda Hart both get to shine in some side-splitting scenes.

Of course this movie would not work as well as it does without the versatility of Melissa McCarthy.  This is the movie that shows so many different facets of her acting ability, but still allows her to do what she does best–comedy.  She is absolutely luminous in this role, and if it doesn’t succeed in making her an even greater star, then something has gone horribly wrong.  My only complaint is that a few of the jokes don’t work, but that is a very small minority.  I am very pleased overall with this movie that I feel even outshines Bridesmaids.  It is also one of my favorite films from this year’s SXSW Film Festival.

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