Spy review: Stand back boys, Melissa McCarthy is here to show you how it's done

Deepanjana Pal

Jun,20 2015 13:55:42 IST

In Manhunt, Peter Bergen's brilliant book on America's hunt for Osama bin Laden, the author mentions at one point that the ones doing most of the hard work are people in offices, far away from the 'field'. A large number of the people in those offices are women — women you wouldn't give a second glance to if you passed them on the street. Average-looking women who trawl their way through intelligence and data, and figure out the patterns and loopholes that field operatives can then use for their missions.

Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is one such drudge. She is the voice in spy extraordinaire Bradley Fine's (Jude Law) ear. Aided by cameras, CIA data, the internet and drones, Susan's the one guiding Bradley to safety. He's got thugs on his tail in Europe; she's being attacked by bats and rats in the CIA's basement office. He's the hero. She's the one picking up his laundry. And yes, Susan's got a crush on him. Unfortunately for her, Bradley's one true love is himself. He looks for shiny surfaces where he can throw a smouldering gaze at his own reflection and asks, "Who's the finest of them all?" (Hashtag: pout.)

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Melissa McCarthy in Spy. Image from Facebook.

If Susan was a svelte, nubile morsel of femininity, then you'd smell romance from a mile away. Susan, however, is not a morsel. She's a full, five-course meal of delicious, hilarious awesomeness. There's no hiding either the crow's feet or the double chin. They're as much in plain sight as her quick thinking, intelligence and comic timing. Unfortunately, not too many people notice.

All that changes when a stick-thin psycho heiress Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne) threatens to nuke the world. It turns out she knows all the CIA field agents by name and face. She informs CIA that she will blow their brains out if she spots any of them sniffing around her, and then proceeds to do just that to Bradley. So now, the CIA has to find a nuclear bomb and uncover a double agent who is selling them out to Rayna. And they can't use any of their usual guys.

Enter Susan, who decides she needs to avenge her beloved Bradley's death. In the process uncovers a dozen other plots that range from weird to wonderful, and proves that if there's a spy to love, it's Susan Cooper.

Suddenly, there are bombs in backpacks, Nargis Fakhri with a knife in her hand, martinis that make throats dissolve, twists that twist into further twists, 50 Cent; and Melissa McCarthy on a scooter, dangling from a helicopter and generally put-putting her way through Europe and towards glory.

With Spy, McCarthy proves what many suspected since they saw her in Bridesmaids: she's a star. Her Susan is lovable and bright, without ever dipping her toe into the Pool of the Pathetic, which is where most overweight heroines end up. And when McCarthy goes into action-hero mode, you will find yourself hooting and clapping. She's that much fun, and that good.

Providing McCarthy superb backup are Miranda Hart as fellow-deskie Nancy and Jason Statham as Rick Ford. Hart is a well-known figure from the British comedy scene, but Spy is her first major motion picture and she's hilarious as "an asthmatic big bird". With McCarthy and Hart on screen and Paul Feig as director, Spy is comedy gold.

To Feig's credit though, everyone in the film is hilarious. Byrne as the disgruntled, gorgeous and immaculately psychotic Rayna is a wonder. Jude Law (whose lips look weirdly fleshy and... pink in the film) is perfect as the Bond-inspired spy who can't look past his own awesomeness. Even the extras, like Rayna's body guards, are funny. One of the few unfunny characters in Spy, sadly, is our Nargis Fakhri. She looks gorgeous, has two unmemorable lines and one superb fight scene with McCarthy.

The hidden comic gem of Spy, however, is Jason Statham, who plays Rick Ford, a field agent who can't believe a deskie has been given this mission when he, with his insane track record of unbelievable stunts, is there to save the day. Spy is at its most awesome when McCarthy and Statham are on screen together. Statham spends most of his screen time reciting absurd incidents that could well be the plots of his previous films. For example, Rick says at one point, "Nothing kills me. I'm immune to 179 different types of poison. I know because I ingested them all at once when I was deep undercover in an underground poison-ingesting crime ring." Susan eyes first goggle and then roll.

Statham is not a comic and he doesn't try to be, which is perhaps why he's the funniest person in Spy's cast. He's snarling, deadpan and brilliant because he's not trying to make people laugh — he's just playing the dude he usually does in his films. Combined with Susan's polite but unconvinced interjections, Rick and Susan's repartee scenes are hilarious.

Rick: You really think you're ready for the field? I once used defibrillators on myself. I put shards of glass in my ****in' eye. I've jumped from a high-rise building using only a raincoat as a parachute and broke both legs upon landing; I still had to pretend I was in a ****ing Cirque du Soleil show! I've swallowed enough microchips and shit them back out again to make a computer. This arm has been ripped off completely and re-attached with *this* ****in' arm.

Susan: I don't know that that's possible... I mean medically...

Rick: During the threat of an assassination attempt, I appeared convincingly in front of congress as Barack Obama.

Susan: In black-face? That's not appropriate.

Rick: I watched the woman I love get tossed from a plane and hit by another plane mid-air. I drove a car off a freeway on top of a train while it was on fire. Not the car, *I* was on fire.

Susan: Jesus, you're intense.

If there's any complaint to be made about Spy, then it is that there should have been more of Statham and McCarthy. We could watch them go at each other for hours. Here's hoping there's a sequel.

Updated Date: Jun 20, 2015 14:01 PM