[Screen It]


(2015) (Melissa McCarthy, Jason Statham) (R)

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Action/Comedy: A CIA desk agent goes out into the field in hopes of stopping an arms dealer's snobby daughter from selling a suitcase nuke to the highest bidder.
Susan Cooper (MELISSA McCARTHY) is a CIA desk agent who's good at what she does. Namely, that's guiding field agent Bradley Fine (JUDE LAW) through precarious situations by being his eyes and ears back at Langley. Unfortunately, Susan has fallen for Bradley but he's oblivious to this, something she talks about with her best friend and fellow desk agent, Nancy (MIRANDA HART). Things get worse when it appears that Rayna Boyanov (ROSE BYRNE), the beautiful, snobbish and highly educated adult daughter of a recently killed arms dealer, has shot Bradley to death.

Since several other agents have ended up dead, and considering that Rayna is now in possession of a suitcase nuke and is using Sergio De Luca (BOBBY CANNAVALE) as an intermediary between her and the highest bidder for such a weapon, Susan's boss, Elaine Crocker (ALLISON JANNEY), wants to send a lower profile agent into the field to find and track her. That doesn't sit well with experienced but boastful agent Rick Ford (JASON STATHAM), especially when Elaine accepts Susan's offer to be that person. He's sure Susan will mess that up and thus goes out on his own to get the job done, meaning the two very different agents end up running into each other through various parts of Europe.

That includes Rome, where Susan runs into her new local driver, Aldo (PETER SERAFINOWICZ), a man who has no problem expressing his sexual desire for her. Attempting to ignore that and the obvious danger she might be in, Susan -- using various domestic aliases -- attempts to track down Rayna and stop her from selling the nuke.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
For most people wanting to break into the moviemaking world of Hollywood, landing an agent to represent you is a need that most everyone knows is paramount (not Paramount, as in the studio). Even so, not all agents are created equally and considering how many actors, screenwriters and such make a living waiting tables, there's obviously only so much work to go around.

For those with agents, there are a multitude of reasons to fire the current one and get new representation, but it really boils down to just three. The first and most obvious one is you're not getting any work. The second is if you're not satisfied with the work you're getting. And the third is if you don't believe you're getting paid enough for said work.

While number one is a no-brainer, number two can sometimes be okay if number three satisfies your needs. But what about the needs of others, such as film critics? I jest, of course, but reviewers often see movie stars and the typecast roles they're in and thus state, "So and so needs to get a new agent."

Such was the case upon seeing the previews for the action-comedy movie "Spy," most of which rightly focuses on Melissa McCarthy as she embodies the lead character. While the actress broke into the limelight via her role on TV's "Gilmore Girls," she's made a mark in the movies and a name for herself playing loud, brash and sometimes obnoxious characters in films such as "Bridesmaids," "The Heat" and "Tammy."

While she had a nice break from that sort of character in "St. Vincent" opposite Bill Murray, she returns to her tried and true form here playing an initially somewhat mousey, behind the scenes CIA support agent Susan Cooper. In that role, she helps guide suave, Bond-esque agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) through various espionage pickles as his eyes, ears and all around knowledge wizard back in the bowels of Langley.

When it appears the latter has perished at the hands of snobby villainess Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne having fun camping it up), Susan volunteers to be the agency's low-profile field agent to find and track the woman before she unloads a suitcase nuke. That's much to the surprise of Susan's best friend and coworker, Nancy (Miranda Hart), and to the chagrin of veteran agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham). He doesn't want his ability to rack up more dangerous adventures about which he can later boast to fall prey to this novice stealing his limelight. Nevertheless, their boss, Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney), having seen Susan's trainee footage from a decade ago, sees her as their only choice.

The film reteams McCarthy with her "Bridesmaids" and "The Heat" writer/director Paul Fieg, and what they're apparently going for is an action-comedy hybrid featuring her most well-known character type thrust into a James Bond spoof (even the opening credits ape the same visual style usually seen at the start of all those Ian Fleming based spy flicks).

Thus, not only do we get a myriad of action scenes (some of which are surprisingly violent with some graphic injuries), but also sexual and gross-out humor that don't always seamlessly mix in with the rest of the material. And McCarthy isn't allowed to play her character's somewhat timid initial tendencies throughout. Instead, she somewhat abruptly segues out of that and quickly returns to usual form.

So, if you enjoy watching the actress go through the usual motions (being over the top in behavior and sometimes physically affected by her size, hurling items and insults at people, etc.) you'll probably enjoy what's offered here.

There are some decent laughs to be had, sometimes from her, sometimes from Statham who has fun over-playing his own brash stereotype. And you certainly can't complain that McCarthy doesn't give it her all, following in the footsteps of larger-sized male comedians who did similar sorts of physical comedy work before her.

But for those who might watch this and start counting up how many times they've seen the actress play this sort of part, they might start pondering that whole "get a new agent" thing. Of course, said agent and their client are likely reaping some mighty financial benefits from this sort of character in these sorts of films, so until the box office well runs dry, don't expect any representation changes anytime soon. Just more of the same but in a spy caper wrapper, "Spy" certainly doesn't hold back, and offers enough laughs to offset the familiarity and eke out a 5 out of 10 rating.

Reviewed June 2, 2015 / Posted June 5, 2015

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