THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME – a mish-mash of hits and misses

This looks like an attempt to find a fresh and edgy action comedy. It succeeds in part only. Sometimes it entertains, and sometimes it doesn’t, and the reason is that The Spy Who Dumped Me tries to blend too many film genres.

We have hard out action sequences, a few of which would have fitted in rather nicely in the recently released Mission Impossible Fall Out. We have plenty of profanity and sexually themed banter – and images  – to satisfy those looking for more adult fare. We have the female buddy story, the classic “one is conservative and one is zany” combo. And we have the goofy comedy, with costumes and over the top and implausible behaviour. It’s not a case of the movie not knowing what it wants to be, rather The Spy Who Dumped Me wants to be too much.

So, best friends Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) are thrown into adventure when Audrey’s boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) turns out to be a spy and, yes, dumps her, but then shortly after Drew entrusts her with a mission. This means Audrey and Morgan cavort across Europe, trying to prevent an evil Spectre-type organisation called Highland from threatening the world. Do the friends trust CIA operatives Sebastian (Sam Heughan) and Duffer (Hasan Minhaj), and their boss Wendy (Gillian Anderson)? Do they trust Drew’s parents, or Morgan’s parents?

What we see is Audrey and Morgan learning Bond-like skills, and putting them to good use. This is being touted as a breakthrough of sorts, although perhaps Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy beat them to it in 2013’s The Heat. The female driven Ocean’s 8 and Ghostbusters remake also tackled this agenda.

Nonetheless, The Spy Who Dumped Me gets marks for its edgy content, and this gives it its best moments. Scenes involving – in no particular order – a thumb, a big bearded German (I think he’s German) bursting into a hostel bunkroom to be confronted by our heroes, a naked Ukranian man in Morgan’s apartment, and where to hide a flash drive, are funny and/or confronting, depending on your taste. But they make you sit up and take notice either way, and so credit is due to writers Susanna Fogel and David Iserson.

Also making you sit up and take notice is the violence. It’s certainly well choreographed, as in a big fight scene in a Vienna café, or during Drew’s acrobatic escape from an apartment balcony. But it’s often quite nasty, as in the case of the cab driver involved in a thrilling car chase. Presumably this tone is there to push the boundaries of what is acceptable in this type of comedy, and you’d have to say in this it does its job. But when you have this realistic action sitting alongside a spoofy end- of-movie slapstick sequence involving Morgan’s fight with a trained assassin in mid-air, then you have a film trying to be both Bourne and Austin Powers. It just gets a little silly.

If the movie is hit and miss, I found the same of the acting performances. In a few brief cameos, Jane Curtin and Paul Reiser nearly steal the show. Gillian Anderson plays, um, Gillian Anderson.  Sam Heughan is a square jawed blond haired poster boy, and Kunis does a good job for sure. The actor worth spending some time on is McKinnon. She is crafting this type of zany, almost manic personality in her roles. We saw it somewhat in Ghostbusters and it is more unleashed here. What’s it about? I’m not sure. We’re not really given any backstory to understand her. Like the film itself, her performance is uneven.  Her banter with Kunis while they’re strung up trying to talk an assassin out of killing them works well, but the histrionics are almost embarrassing elsewhere, notably in the aforementioned mid-air fight at movie’s end.

So, hidden in here are some laughs and some thrills. But they’re not coherently stitched together, and after a bright start the overlong The Spy Who Dumped Me fades. Pity.

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