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Thursday, June 4, 2015

SPY Review

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
2015, 120 minutes
Rated R for language throughout, violence, and some sexual content including brief graphic nudity 

Review by Joshua Handler

Paul Feig is the director Hollywood needs right now. His most recent directorial efforts, Bridesmaids and The Heat, are big-budget studio films with all-female leads. The female characters aren't the kind traditionally seen in Hollywood films though - they're smart, eccentric, and most importantly, real. Even in Spy, a James Bond spoof action-comedy, the lead female characters are all fully developed and real people.

Feig's screenplay for Spy is comedy gold. The humor is broad, but the visual and verbal gags are so relentless and consistently funny that they keep the film engaging and laugh-out-loud funny. Genuinely funny comedies are among the hardest films to make because everyone has their own definition of "funny". Because of that, comedies are very hit-or-miss. There are maybe one or two great comedies per year, and even those aren't usually full-on comedies, but rather a genre mash like a dramedy. Spy is a full-on R-rated comedy and to see a film like this succeed so greatly is exciting.

Spy would be nothing without Melissa McCarthy and the rest of the game cast including Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Allison Janney, and Miranda Hart who elevate the material to the next level. Every one of these incredibly talented actors is given ample opportunities to demonstrate their acting capabilities, particularly McCarthy who reminds us of why she's a force of nature with the right material. McCarthy's recent films have limited her to being an overweight woman with a foul mouth (St. Vincent excluded in which she was quite good), so to see her go to town with a multi-dimensional character like Susan Cooper is a breath of fresh air. As Susan, McCarthy is still allowed to be vulgar, but she also shows that she can still be an everywoman. Much of McCarthy's appeal is that she seems like an everywoman. She's attractive, but not in a traditional Hollywood kind of way, and while she has an abundance of charisma and a magnetic screen presence, she doesn't look much different from someone you might see at the grocery store. In Spy, McCarthy mixes her plain charm with a wicked super spy persona that proves again that she's the real deal.

Jason Statham gives a shocking performance as Rick Ford, a crazed CIA agent. Statham's intensity and sharp comedic timing mixed with Paul Feig's wicked dialogue (it's obvious that Feig had the most fun dreaming up Ford's dialogue) is a surprising match. Statham steals every scene he's in.

Rose Byrne is, for my money, one of the most versatile actresses working today, and once again, Feig brings out the best in her. As villain Rayna Boynaov, Byrne is sexy, salty, and bitchy. She and McCarthy have electric comedic chemistry that elevates their scenes.

Overall, Spy is a star-driven comedy that hits almost consistently throughout. While not particularly original, Spy is so well-written, directed, acted, and edited that originality doesn't matter. Spy should be a massive hit with audiences everywhere. It takes a lot for me to laugh at a film, but Spy had me rolling on the floor for the vast majority of its 120-minute running time.


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