Spyi is a new movie about a lightly shamed landwhaleii cum CIA agent named Susan Cooper, played by Melissa McCarthy.iii The story follows Cooper as she moves from support analyst to active field agent after the CIA database is “hacked,” the list of active agents is leaked, and the agency needs more incognito humint.iv As if the CIA could afford humint in the first place !!1 Only in a comedy, I tell ya…
While the film doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors in the James-Bond-if-it-were-a-comedy line of filmmaking, namely Austin Powers and Naked Gun,v I have to cut it some slack because movies just used to be plain better back when filmmaking was an art and not simply a marketing enterprise. As such, this will be judged in the context of its own time and its own place.
Spy, then, is remarkable for not falling into the same pitfalls of other mainstream box office “hits” ; namely, the characters are consistent and believable, they have even a modicum of personal development, and the product placement in the movie is blessedly minimal. Seriously, it’s such a relief to have a movie where every character isn’t driving one particular brand of German car while talking on their one particular brand of Chinese-made phablet asking their colleague if they “Wanna grab a [insert generic premium Belgian beer brand here] after work.” That this is saying anything at all is commentary enough on the generally abysmal state of contemporary “mainstream” filmmaking. That a movie doesn’t slap its stupid fucking audience with a dead corporate fish should be the status quo, not the exception. It’s really pretty breathtaking that a movie that that isn’t even any good rises above the rest and into notability merely because it isn’t blantantly offensive to the cultured viewer.
Speaking of the cultured viewer, not that he by any stretch of the imagination ought to spend two hours watching McCartman et al., he’ll also appreciate the views and vistas of Bulgaria, Rome, Paris, and Budapest, the grounds upon which the film takes place (though it was mostly shot in Budapest). The cleanly edited and thoughtfully composed videography was also quite splendid and not at all to be underestimated. Bezzlars are apparently still useful in this endeavour. For the few slow-paced fight scenes (how fast do you really expect a 300 lbs. hamplanet to move ?) there was an equal balance of European architecture and dinin’ at the Ritz high life.
The dialogue was definitely wooden at times, not consistently striking a chord, and the use of “fuck” and its several and many derivatives was badly over-played. Really, I know that literacy is hard and creativity more so, but a little variety in the vocabulary of the characters would’ve gone a long way. Yes, this risks burning off the ears of “the masses” and damning their souls to the fiery depths of hell while you struggle to recoup your $65 mn production budget, but no one said art was a guaranteed ROI, y’know ?
Rose Byrne, playing Rayna Boyanov, is an absolute bombshell and she plays the aristocratic heiress simply swimmingly. She’s a joy to watch on screen. She also delivered the funniest line in the film when she told Cooper that her humour was derived from “the Bulgarian clown” in her, reminding Rayna of both a penniless streetwalker from her youth and her own mother.
There were a few other unexpectedly memorable moments as well, like when CIA Agent Bradley Fine, played by the dazzlingly flat Jude Law, gave Cooper a scary/angry cupcake necklace instead of an engagement ring,vi toying with the beggy but shockingly choosyvii Cooper’s heart, and when Agent Fine shoots his mark, Tihomir Boyanov, the only man who knows where the suitcase nuke is hiding, square between the eyes because his allergies were acting up and he sneezed while simultaneously pulling the trigger. I mean, haven’t you always wondered what would happen if the good guy accidentally killed the bad guy a moment too soon, or vice versa ? I sure have.
I wouldn’t recommend Spy but nor was it completely unwatchable. As frighteningly as Mr. AngryCupcakeFace, you can do worse.
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- 2015, Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham. Directed by Paul Feig.↩
- Easily big enough to end up on /r/fatpeoplehate back when that was a thing.↩
- If you’ve never heard of
Amanda McCartmanMelissa McCarthy before, she’s a female comedian such as they are today. Her breakout role was in Bridesmaids (2011).↩
- The evil al-Queda could’ve sent pizzas to all the agents’ houses ! Had the movie been filmed today, “ISIS” would’ve been the word. Ten years from now, it’ll be “Bitcoin” (if it isn’t already). ↩
- I remember quite enjoying Naked Gun as a youth but I haven’t seen the films in years so I can’t really speak to how well they’ve held up over time. Although I tried watching “Airplane!” recently, which was also from the 80’s and also featured Leslie Nielsen, and I didn’t make it past the first 10 minutes, so deep was utter inanity of that low-budget shitstick.↩
- Seriously, one particular agent is good enough for you but the others, though objectively inferior to the object of your desire yet still drastically superior to your lowly station and actually interested in you, aren’t ? How “sad” and “lonely” can you be when you say “NO” to opportunities !!!1 The fucking thoughtless excused for utopian thinking this movie quietly promotes. Just nuts.↩