Review: Spy

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DIR/WRI:  Paul Feig •  PRO: Peter Chernin, Paul Feig, Jessie Henderson, Jenno Topping • DOP: Robert D. Yeoman • ED: Mellissa Bretherton • MUS: Theodore Shapiro • DES: Jefferson Sage • CAST: Melissa McCarthy, Miranda Hart, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Jude Law, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale

 

When super-suave agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) is killed by the fabulously-quiffed Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne), his CIA desk jockey handler Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is devastated. Worse than that, now there’s a nuclear bomb available to any dastardly buyer, and Cooper begs Chief Crocker (Allison Janney) for a chance to finally get out in the field and do some real spying-type stuff.

Agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham) laughs off that idea – he wants to go in with all guns blazing – but this requires a light touch, and he’s too OTT. When he storms out, the Chief has no choice but to – reluctantly – give the nod to Susan. Finally she’s going undercover!

Quick as a flash – well, after getting her underwhelming super spy “weapon” – Susan has said goodbye to her BFF and fellow agent Nancy (Miranda Hart) and is on the way to Budapest, slipping into her first hideous cat women/single-for-life frumpy middle-America lady tourist disguise.

Ford is there too – he’s gone rogue – and now Susan has to deal with him and try not to blow her cover (or make too many mistakes). She manages to infiltrate Raina’s inner circle, but then things start to get really dangerous: can Susan and her friends save the world (and finally get a decent haircut and frock to stop Raina’s bitchy comments?).

Written and directed by Feig, Spy reunites him again with his Bridesmaids and Heat star McCarthy, who was wobbling a bit after the relative failure of Tammy, which was the first film where she was the only name on the poster.

Perhaps taking note of this, Feig does the unusual for this kind of film; he beefs up the supporting cast and actually gives them something to do. Apparently a huge fan of English TV star Miranda Hart (an unknown in the USA), Feig gives her a funny and meaty role, and she almost steals the film from McCarthy at times; they’re like a kind of female Laurel and Hardy.

The rest of the supporting cast – Statham, Law, Byrne and another British comedian Peter Serafinowicz, playing an amorously cheesy Italian agent – get plenty to do as well, and because they’re all totally up for a laugh, the combination effect works really well and makes McCarthy shine a little more.

There are plenty of laughs to be had, and with smart direction (we’re in Bond territory here of course, but there are chases and knife fights alongside blood, vomit and plenty of f-bombs – Americans love to hear English people swear), this is likely to set off a sequel or two…

James Bartlett

15A (See IFCO for details)
119 minutes

Spy is released 5th June 2015

Spy – Official Website

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Cinema Review: The Heat

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DIR: Paul Feig • WRI: Katie Dippold • PRO: Peter Chernin, Jenno Topping • DOP: Enrique Chediak • ED: Brent White, Jay Deuby • CAST: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans

Buddy-cop comedies were a staple of the 1980s in the wake of the success of 48 Hours, which translated the talents of Eddie Murphy from the small screen to movies. In this summer of tedious city-levelling blockbusters, it’s a palette-cleansing relief to find The Heat reworking the ‘80’s formula of the reliable police officer paired with a wild and crazy partner. Here Sandra Bullock plays an efficient but uptight FBI agent forced to work alongside Melissa McCarthy’s scruffy and inventively foul-mouthed Boston cop in order to take down a drug lord. The plot only serves to generate situations that allow our odd-couple duo to demonstrate their comedic gifts, and, in this, it succeeds wonderfully.

Some interesting actors, including Jane Curtin, Demián Bichir , Tony Hale and Michael Rappaport appear in supporting roles, but  this is really a two-woman show. As seen in The Proposal, Bullock is adept at milking awkwardness and inhibition for all their comic potential. The real star, however, is McCarthy, who, both physically and verbally, heeds no boundaries of taste in order to elicit laughs. One can’t help but feel that much of her dialogue was unscripted. The film’s 15 certificate rating gives her free rein to coin some fresh workplace profanity, including a grandstanding tirade about her boss’s lack of balls. The filmmakers’ willingness to spurn a general audience in favour of the liberties afforded by the higher age rating also allows for unexpected moments of violence that further the comedy, including a bloody and bloody funny emergency tracheotomy needlessly performed by Bullock.

McCarthy made her first mark in 2011’s Bridesmaids, and that film’s director, Paul Feig, draws another great performance from her. Despite the massive success of Bridesmaids, some critics grudgingly marginalised it as a female-skewing, chick-flick phenomenon, as if its box-office total of $288 million worldwide was all made up entirely by hen parties, with men staying well clear. Straying into the traditionally male terrain of the buddy-cop genre and generating the same kind of laughs as Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, The Heat clarifies the fact that funny is funny, regardless of the gender of the protagonists.

Tony McKiver

Rated 15A (see IFCO website for details) 

115 mins
The Heat is released on 2nd August 2013

The Heat  – Official Website

 

 

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