Monday, 8 June 2015

Film: 'Spy'

Quite a number of the audience were guffawing in states of high hilarity during this. Not so me - as you might have guessed. It wasn't totally mirthless, though. There were indeed three of four moments of mild drollery, but for me they really were as low-key and infrequent as that.

Melissa McCarthy (from the much better 'Bridesmaids') plays the unlikely F.B.I. agent hopping around Europe after volunteering for a job following the demise of an agent who was chasing illicit arms trading, where it's thought that her less obvious Junoesque figure may be an advantage.  Locations are Paris, Rome and Budapest, where the captions helpfully tell us in which countries these 'little-known' cities can be found. (Why is it that we see no films which say 'New York, U.S.A.', as also with Washington D.C., Los Angeles etc?)
Also on hand are suave and Bond-style Jude Law with (and much more interesting), Jason Statham, all overflowing anger, super-confident of his own abilities and contemptuous of others. It was he who was the saving grace of this film for me, with an impressive ability to deliver dry, silly lines while keeping totally straight-faced. Shame, then, that his screen time wasn't as extensive as I'd expected.
Miranda Hart is also there, and she just doesn't seem to fit comfortably in the plot both as a person and in the scheme of things. Another pity

It's a very physical film (a lot of it very violent) with McCarthy drawing on reserves of energy one would not have expected from someone with her physique. She also packs one hell of a punch and she has no mean accuracy when it comes to using her gun - but these are all part of the absurdities which are meant to define this as a comedy..
The 'jokes' are either slapstick-like or, verbally, based on the assumption that the cruder one is then the funnier it must be, which, as we all know, is simply not true. I think it betrays a lameness in the script, something which a lot of our present-day younger stand-up comedians also fail to recognise.

The world this film inhabits reminded me a lot of the 'Johnny English' films. Of course the Melissa McCarthy figure is miles apart from that played by Rowan Atkinson, but they share a gaucheness in both action and words of not realising the implication and consequences of what they are doing or saying, at least until it's too late and the action has accordingly moved on..

The two-hour film was too long by at least thirty minutes. It ought to have been sharper but the fights are over-prolonged and could have been cut back with improved effect.

Director (and writer of this) Paul Feig also directed 'Bridesmaids', which I found a much more satisfactory film, though also patchy in its comedic moments. I think Feig over-indulges himself here, which shows especially in the bone-crunching combat scenes.

'Spy' has had generally quite good reviews. I don't subscribe to them, but I've certainly seen worse, a lot worse. Besides, there's always the chance that you will be one of those roaring in mirth. From me it gets a humble........................4.


  1. Comedy fat gals do nothing for me

    1. I didn't feel at ease with seeing McCarthy as someone whom one is supposed to laugh at - though emphatically not for THAT reason, J.G, at least we're not to admit that she's funny because of her physical proportions. It applied even more to her part in 'Bridesmaids' where I felt she was a 'token' actor of outsize shape put there among all the other svelte bodies to give a spurious impression of inclusivity, when we all know that in reality all gatherings display a wide range of body types. I think that ultimately this was why I found 'Spy' film not as funny as it thought it was.

  2. It's not calling out to me Ray.... it seems an odd vehicle for Miranda Hart too. BTW - watched The Imitation Game on DVD last night and enjoyed it very much.

    1. The entire venture seemed an oddity, Craig - but I'd cite the presence of Ms Hart (whom I really like) as one of the most odd things about it. It wasn't a suitable vehicle for her.

      Glad, but not too surprised, that you felt positively towards 'Imitation'. During the awards season it seemed to be outshone in recognition by 'Theory of Everything'. In another year I think it might have fared better. I did think Eddie R. deserved the gongs he picked up but on the whole I thought 'Imitation' the better film.