- Credit: Archant
Oscar-nominated actress Melissa McCarthy reunites with Bridesmaids writer-director Paul Feig for an action-packed mission, which would leave James Bond decidedly shaken and stirred by its unorthodox approach to 21st-century espionage.
Punctuated by thrilling chases and a frenetic knife fight in a restaurant kitchen, Spy is a terrifically entertaining caper, jam-packed with belly laughs and foul-mouthed outbursts.
The hijinks are underpinned by another winning performance from McCarthy as a deskbound analyst at the CIA, who is championed for her moist homemade cakes rather than her sharp intellect.
Brains arm-wrestles brawn in Feig's politically incorrect and uproarious script, including an amusing cameo from rapper 50 Cent as himself and a juicy supporting role for Miranda Hart.
While the leading lady proves her doubters wrong in the name of world peace, Jason Statham lampoons his tough guy screen image as a CIA operative, who was clearly at the shallow end of the gene pool when they were doling out intelligence.
One wordy scene - perhaps the most dialogue Statham has ever delivered in a single take - is a particular highlight.
Suave secret agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) completes some of the Agency's most dangerous missions thanks to the quick-thinking and hi-tech gadgetry of analyst Susan Cooper (McCarthy).
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He takes all of the acclaim while Susan remains firmly in the background haunted by her controlling mother's mangled mantra: 'well behaved women do make history'.
When Bradley and the other agents, including British bruiser Rick Ford (Statham), are compromised, Susan puts herself forward for active duty to infiltrate the inner circle of arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne).
CIA deputy director Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) places her trust in Susan to complete the perilous mission without any field experience.
'Track and report only,' instructs Elaine.
Guided by her dithering colleague Nancy Artingstall (Hart), Susan adopts a series of dowdy disguises to get close to Rayna without arousing suspicion.
'I look like someone's homophobic aunt,' remarks Susan about one of her fake personas.
As Rayna prepares to sell a stolen device to Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale), Susan throws caution to the wind to avert global disaster.
Opening with an extended action sequence and Saul Bass-inspired opening titles replete with a Bond-esque thunderous ballad, Spy is a rip-roaring treat.
McCarthy throws herself into her role with gusto, mixing steeliness with lovability as she battles armed henchmen, speeds after a target on a scooter and tries to stop a bad guy from escaping in his helicopter.
Hart essentially plays herself, but she's a snug fit amidst a strong Anglo-American cast, who deliver Feig's zinging one-liners with tongues wedged firmly in cheek.
The spirit of 007 pervades every glossy frame, but with old-school chauvinism turned on its head to affirm a message of girl power and independence.
*** (3 stars)