Hopefully, Melissa McCarthy has started a trend of funny female-led spy films. In 2015 she starred in Spy, subverting the genre’s standards and stereotypes. Now The Spy Who Dumped Me has joined it as an action-comedy buddy film that places female characters at its centre.
With a title that’s an obvious play on 007 flick The Spy Who Loved Me and the Austin Powers-led The Spy Who Shagged Me, The Spy Who Dumped Me falls firmly in between. It’s not a traditional 007-style movie nor does it tip to the other end of the scale where Austin Powers’ slapstick spoofs lie. The Spy Who Dumped Me does make occasional nods to other spy movies, but it’s more concerned with being its own movie, playing up its own laughs with fun, fresh characters.
Starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, who have titles such as Ted and Saturday Night Live under their belts, you’d expect a slew of below the belt humour. Although there is a cheeky crack or two, most of the humour is derived from the OTT situations the women find themselves in, and their well-played reactions.
Kate McKinnon is an especial delight. I’ve heard her name a lot recently, but never seen her perform. There’s a reason she’s mainlining the comedy circuit: she knows the genre and plays it to full effect. Her character in The Spy Who Dumped Me could easily have been as ridiculous as some of the action sequences; or she could have stuck to the tried and tested, but already tiring, routine of so many action-comedy archetypes before her. Instead she brings cheek and charm to her character, ensuring she’s not merely relegated to the role of sidekick, but is a partner to Kunis both as character and actress.
What took me completely by surprise in the movie was the level of violence. Spy played up its stunts and chases, and while The Spy Who Dumped Me has these too, they’re interspersed with café-bound bloodbaths and brutal impalements. It was unexpected and took me aback at first. It could have been toned down a bit, mainly because it often felt quite out of left field; but I also liked that a female-centred film didn’t feel the need to play down the intensity of the action.
The ending comes with a very apparent sequel set-up. All the movie needs is the numbers at the box office to ensure a return. That seems set to happen. What they’ll do with the title, however, is a mystery that only these spies can reveal upon their return.