Sunday, July 5, 2015

SPY (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


Director Paul Feig scores again with "Spy," a Melissa McCarthy vehicle, that is no doubt a comedy, but also stands up surprisingly well as an espionage thriller as well as a laugh riot.

Yes, here again is McCarthy as we know her: the sarcastic and brash lady with a big mouth, but her role has heart. She's a CIA logistics operator who longs for the glamorous jet set life of an agent on the field. As Susan Cooper, she pines for the love of her fellow agent Fine (Jude Law) but she is sequestered behind a desk and can only give him directional cues.

When a strait-laced agent Crocker (Allison Janney) needs a low profile, mundane agent to gather the location of a terrorist weapon, she immediately thinks of Cooper. Cooper immediately takes to far-flung locations to collect intelligence.

Thus begins a kind of odyssey involving agents, guns and briefcases. This genre has a rich cinematic history from "Fletch" and "Spies Like Us" to "Austin Powers," but what makes "Spy" different from the rest is that it does truly pull its weight as a thriller in the key of Bond.

The exchanges between McCarthy and Rose Byrne as a dominant villain are first rate. While Byrne may have the best lines in telling Cooper that she eats like a baby while dining at a five star restaurant, Cooper always gets the last word. Director Feig (Bridesmaids, The Heat) once again highlights this film with a strong female protagonist that will not, under any circumstances, give in.

Jason Statham makes good fun of himself as Agent Ford, a spy who takes himself overly seriously, though in reality he is a hopeless klutz. His character is not new, but his vigor and egotistical energy shows through and manages to make it a refresher course ala Monty Python.

But in terms of stealing the show, the honor goes to Bjorn Gustafsson as a clueless guard.

While we know McCarthy's comedic persona well, her hapless self deprecation and charisma in spite of all flashes though all recognizable shtick.

During the first half we get the usual jokes of Cooper being the under-appreciated misfit, but by the film's second hour, Susan Cooper is a woman of action, progressively subverting the Bond film to include all women, and also proving McCarthy as an action star.

The combat scene in the kitchen with numerous vegetables, breads and cutlery of all sorts, almost brings the film to high art. A singular note of lunacy.

At first glance, Jude Law might seem weak as a bit of a handsome dullard, lest we forget that he is acting as the straight man.

"Spy" is in the long tradition of mixed genre films that have featured Dan Aykroyd, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Richard Pryor, and Abbott & Costello. "Spy" is a welcome addition with dialogue that not only spoofs for laughs but also points to a future in going beyond the conventions of what audiences might expect.

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