Still, after 50-some years, it doesn't matter who plays the British secret agent, or for that matter an American secret agent of similar caliber. These movies have been done and redone, parodied and re-parodied, ever since Dr. No. There have even been female secret agents, most notibly Modesty Blaise. So why not try a fish-out-of-water comedy with one of today's famous comedy stars?
Well, it's Paul Feig, for one, and his idea of comedy largely relies on falling back on jokes about weight, gender and race, with a few bodily functions thrown in. For some reason, critics liked this, and it got him the go-ahead for the Ghostbusters reboot.
Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) is the computer expert and brains behind CIA agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law). When his allergies result in him accidentally killing international arms dealer Tihomir Boyanov (Raad Rawi) before he can reveal the location of some nuclear weapons he plans to sell on the black market, she must then guide him to the mansion of his daughter Rayna (Rose Byrne). Rayna gets the drop on Bradley, and promptly drops him to Susan's horror.
It turns out that Rayna knew who Fine was because a mole had leaked information on all the secret field agents. Despite the increasingly complex, and violent, suggests of agent Rick Ford (Jason Statham), Susan is able to talk her boss into letting her gather information on Rayna's whereabouts, as she's an unknown. She is sent to Paris under a frumpy and unassuming identity to trail a man named Solsa Dudaev (Richard Brake), who has links to Rayna, only to find that Ford has gone rogue and is there in disguise to do the job that he thinks Cooper cannot.
Cooper proves capable of doing her job and ends up killing Dudaev when Ford blows both their covers. Their findings lead them to Rome, where she is teamed with Sergio De Luca, an agent who has had numerous HR issues due to his "handling" of female agents. From there, she quickly learns that things at the agency are not as they seem, and it truly is up to her intercept the weapons before they fall into the wrong hands.
The main problem with this movie is the humor. I never saw Bridesmaids simply because it isn't something I would watch unless I was doing penance, and I love women in strong lead roles. To that end, Melissa McCarthy is great, doing most of her own stunts and bringing Susan Cooper to life as a character I would love to see in a full series - as long as Feig wasn't behind it. Despite working with her through various films, he can't let the fact that she's a large-sized woman go. One of the running jokes is that everyone ignores her accept Sergio, who has a fat fetish. We get it; Melissa McCarthy is fat. So what? It would have been more humorous if that fact had been ignored the entire film. The point was that she was an office drone suddenly coming to her own as a secret agent; size really had nothing to do with it.
The reason I am reviewing it here is because, as an action film, it really did get most things right. Its violence and language earned it an R-rating, so kudos for not pulling punches there. Jason Statham is the one place where the humor works, as agent Rick Ford goes over the most ridiculous ideas out of James Bond films and other spy films to come up with the most convoluted ways of doing his job, while Cooper just gets the job done. Rose Byrne made a pretty good villain as well.
While making a parody, Paul Feig accidentally made a halfway fresh action film with a number of great characters. Too bad he gave into his baser instincts and ruined it with his half-baked ideas of comedy.
Time: 119 minutes
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jude Law, Jason Statham
Director: Paul Feig