Susan Cooper is a secret agent. Well, at least she’s secret in the sense that no one really knows who she is. Or cares.
Sure, she works for the CIA. But she’s stationed in its basement, tethered to a barrage of computers and confined to a strictly supporting role, technologically bonded to super-suave, out-in-the-field agent Bradley Fine.
Cooper is the key grip to Fine’s Martin Scorsese, the eyebrow-plucker for Fine’s Kim Kardashian. From his exquisitely tailored tuxedos to his lethal haymaker to his penchant for glib one-liners, Fine just oozes “spy.” Cooper oozes, um, organizational skills? If there’s a thug hiding around the corner, she warns Fine. If there’s a plethora of ne’er-do-wells chasing him, she’ll call in a convenient air strike. She sees what he sees, hears what he hears and knows way more than he knows. Fine might look mighty fine in a tux. But it’s Coop’s job to make sure the sucker doesn’t get wrinkled.
Coop can’t detect everything, of course. One night when Fine is slinking around a suspiciously unguarded villainous hideout, he’s ambushed and unceremoniously dispatched. Suddenly, the suavest spy this side of MI6 is gone. His quarry—beautiful terrorist Rayna Boyanov—is on the loose with a suitcase-size nuclear bomb and plans to sell the thing to the highest bidder. Oh, and she knows the identity of every CIA field agent there is.
Well, this is a deep-fried state fair pickle, isn’t it? If Rayna knows what every CIA spook looks like, who can they send to catch her? A Kingsman? Surely you jest! A guy from U.N.C.L.E.? Nah, that would smack of nepotism. Who in this whole wide world of ours would be secret enough and gullible enough to take the job and—
Susan Cooper gingerly volunteers. And despite the tittering amongst the (ahem) real spies in the room, she makes a good case for herself. Technically, she is an agent. And she is the closest of closely held secrets. Why, her own employers barely remember her name, so Rayna certainly won’t be familiar with her. Cooper knows how the CIA works, too. It’s not like she just sits around and pets cats all day.
So with no better options, the CIA sends Coop to Paris with an ambitious first mission: Save the world and avenge one of the agency’s best spies—a guy she secretly loved. And if she succeeds, maybe the world will see that she makes a pretty fine spy, too.
Hey, who’s gonna knock someone for trying to save the world? Not this movie reviewer. I’m all for anyone who does her best to keep nuclear bombs from being sold to terrorists. The fact that Cooper doesn’t have much experience in the world-saving business makes her work yet more inspirational. Not every desk jockey would feel so comfortable engaging in hand-to-hand combat with trained assassins and leaping onto flying helicopters. I, for instance, regularly turn down those sorts of assignments.
During Fine’s memorial service, a CIA bigwig says that “knowing the universe has a plan for each human life” does not make Fine’s passing any easier.
In looking through pictures on an evildoer’s cellphone, Coop and some other CIA associates stumble across pics of someone’s penis. (We see one.) And we see two men (from a distance) engaging in an oral sex act in the street.
Coop is paired with a creepy Italian operative named Aldo who gropes her breasts and rear, tries to force French kisses on her and serves as pretty much a walking definition of sexual harassment and/or assault—all, naturally, in the name of laughs. It gets so bad in a couple of places that the verbal and visual gags include references to both ejaculation and penetration.
There are quantities of other crude comments about sexual acts, erections and porn as well. Italian men hoot and make apparently ribald comments (in Italian) at passing females, including Coop. Coop complains that one of her secret identities makes her look like “someone’s homophobic aunt.”
In her very first mission melee, Cooper breaks a guy’s leg, throwing him off a building and onto a piece of rebar, which pierces his chest before he’s stabbed with a falling knife. In another fight, she stabs a woman in the hand (grotesquely shown in near loving, slow-motion detail). The woman then pulls the knife out and proceeds to use it as her own weapon.
People get whacked with pots and other cooking implements. We see lots of flying punches, kicks, choke holds and other bone-crunching, body-bruising moves. At least two foes are killed in these frenetic fights, both getting their backs snapped when crashing to the ground at awkward angles. Others are shot in the head (causing death) or shoulders or stomach (causing serious injury). Someone falls out of a helicopter after getting gunned down. A bomb explodes.
Coop saves Rayna from a poisoned drink, after which Rayna forces another perp to drink it. (The concoction causes his throat to dissolve.) After several people die on Rayna’s private jet, Coop, flying the thing, causes the bodies to bash into Rayna several times. We hear about arms getting ripped off, agents playing around with ingesting poisons, etc.
Nearly 100 f-words, about 30 s-words and a generous allotment of other profanities, including “a–,” “d–n,” “h—” and “bloody.” The c-word gets used once, along with other crude-to-obscene terms for sexual body parts. God’s name is misused about 40 times, several times with “d–n.” Jesus’ name is abused a dozen times.
Characters drink wine, champagne and whiskey. A few smoke.
A recently deceased man defecates in his pants (on top of Rayna). Coop is also said to have soiled her pants. She vomits voluminously, splashing the stuff on a corpse. People lie, steal and drive recklessly. Most of Coop’s spy gadgets are disguised in the form of embarrassing personal products, including stool softeners, hemorrhoid wipes and bunion removal gear. A scene takes place in an upscale gambling hall. Rayna refers to Coop’s outfit as “an abortion of a dress.”
I like Melissa McCarthy. I like spy movies. As such, I wanted to like this Melissa McCarthy spy movie. It has a promising cast, what with Jude Law as a James Bond knockoff and Jason Statham taking his super-tough shtick and turning it toward the (more) ludicrous.
But while Spy made me smile a time or two, most of its humor is predicated on McCarthy and Co. getting horrifically obscene. Or gross. It seems as though the entire movie was built around the idea of audiences giggling and gasping, “Did you hear what she just said?!”
You know, even if I was the type of person to find profanity funny in the first place (and I’m not), the joke would still be getting a little old. Paul Feig pumped this same well for Bridesmaids (for which McCarthy won an Academy Award). He returned to it in the Melissa McCarthy/Sandra Bullock comedy The Heat. And here we are again. The same words, employed in the same way, by the same person. It’s the same jagged joke told 50 times in the same movie. Dude, even funny jokes get pretty threadbare after a while. And I’ve heard enough of this particular punchline to last the rest of my career.
McCarthy is a gifted comedienne with a bewildering number of tools at her disposal. You see hints of some of her other talents here … but too few and too rarely.
Even the best comics are sometimes defined by one trademark or skit. Abbot and Costello will always be known for “Who’s on First?” Harpo Marx will forever be associated with his harp and horn. But I hope that when it comes down to penning McCarthy’s legacy there’s more to it than one unprintable word.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.