Wednesday, 3 June 2015

'Spy' Review

Looks familiar, doesn't it? A spy send up comedy film rated 15/R and starring a variety of hot stars.... well that's because it is. Matthew Vaughn's excellent 'Kingsman: The Secret Service' (hold your horses for a DVD review) smashed into our screens earlier this year. And once again we have a 'The Raid'/'Dredd' situation, where we must compare the two films. Which came out on top? Read on to find out...

So basically, and I'm just gonna put this out there right now, 'Kingsman' was better - much better. In fact, so much better that it makes what may have been a pretty fun comedy look like a damp squib in comparison. 'Spy' utilizes the uneven partnership of director Paul Feig and his usual suspects (including Melissa Mcarthy) of  'Bridesmaids' fame, and of course, the terrible terrible 'The Heat' to pull in the crowds at the local multiplexes, and a simple story-line to attract more punters.

We open on a series of unimportant, yet slightly amusing scenes of character exposition that create a degree of chemistry between Law and McCarthy. We then get given a generic, yet comedic plot which involves McCarthy's desk ridden agent being placed in the field for the first time ever, to confront some seriously bad guys and a nuke - typical. I'm not saying that's the whole plot, in fact, a twist scene completely took me off guard! It's not 'The Heat'. But it's also not 'Bridesmaids'.

McCarthy - so so performance...
Indeed, 'Spy' somewhat straddles the two. It's not nearly as bad as 'The Heat':it has a decent story-line, and more laughs than that car crash of a movie. I had a couple of genuine, non audience motivated moments of amusement, and for that I am happy. Yet it's comedy never quite reaches the fever pitch of 'Bridesmaids', nor the narrative complexity (if you could call it that). The humor in 'Spy' also makes a slight depart from the bawdy nature of Feig's other works: apart from the usual couple of 'shock-laughs', warm jokes abound. Does this work? I'm not sure. On one hand, it makes the film have a USP compared to the biting satire of Vaughn's masterstroke, but on the other, it creates a rather fetid and safe atmosphere that seems content to just sit around and watch the cash roll in. And the cash WILL roll in. We can be sure that the partnership between Feig and McCarthy will become a cash cow for MANY years to come.

All in all, it feels more like a statement of love for the spy films of old, rather than a satire or comment on them. Yet it's a false love, proclaiming itself to the genre rather than proving its allegiance.Whereas 'Kingsman' had a lot to say about the genre and where it was headed, 'Spy' has nothing other than some jaded nostalgia, which certainly didn't ring true with myself. Again, it seems good for the films to achieve some distance, but they're just too simillar despite this. And the performances aren't exactly dynamite either. McCarthy puts on her usual so-so performance playing, well,  herself  (George Clooney anyone?) alongside a bland Jude Law and an archetypal Rose Byrne + Miranda Hart combination. Perhaps the only savior of this cast would be the fantastic Jason Statham.

The cast of 'Spy' - Lean mean cash machine
Statham represents the mentality of old school Bond: he is indestructible, valiant, and has done the craziest things. Although Feig makes it all too clear that this is pure bluff, creating the best comedy and fun in 'Spy'. And 'Spy' is quite good fun. Whenever he appears, one can be sure that the audience in the theater will erupt into fits of laughter, elevating the film to a higher level. It never strays into politics or thoughtful commentary, and it certainly never claims to be art. The shots are mainly bland and uninspired - but they never intend to be masterpieces either, and unlike 'Kingsman', pretentious touches are left out of the picture. It's warmer, less complex, and easier to grasp than its counterpart. Perhaps I'm being a little to harsh: without 'Kingsman', I may have loved it (who knows). So I suppose it's a decent trip out with mates or as a date movie....


I just can't help feeling that this could have been SO much better. The real reason why this movie is rated 15 is it's violence. Indeed, the violence abounds in nearly every scene. We see headshots, impalements, stabbings and blood spurts in slow motion frequently. If you haven't witnessed Vaughn's film, it could possibly be construed as brutal and unique, but if you have, it feels bland. 'Kingsman' was electric, eclectic, and extreme. It was a crazy kick to the head; an adrenaline shot of invigorating ultra violence. 'Spy' is tame in comparison. It lacks the love for the spy genre that 'Kingsman' had, and as such does not provide any of the beautiful references that the film made. It's also devoid of all smart humor or satire, and not only this, but it's simply just not as funny....

In conclusion, 'Spy' isn't a bad film. It's sporadically funny, violent, and a playful movie to watch with friends, but it's also not a masterpiece... overshadowed by far superior works, Feig's film achieves 'Dredd syndrome' and as such, is just kinda alright-ish...

'Spy' gets 3 stars

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