The name’s Fine, Bradley Fine (Jude Law), and he’s one of the best, most suave and indeed violent agents the C.I.A. has, currently tracking a small nuclear bomb hidden somewhere that one man knows the location of. Fine makes his way through this multimillionaire criminal’s mansion where a party is being held to discover a back room that the man (Raad Rawi) is waiting for him in, and pulls a gun on him then starts asking the pertinent questions. But he has Fine and the United States over a barrel, as he has executed the only witnesses who may be able to help, and the spy cannot harm him without jeopardising the free world. Which makes it all the more terrible when Fine sneezes and shoots the man in the head accidentally…
But although this was yet another example to add to the long list of James Bond spoofs, initially headed by an actor who may or may not have been in the running to take over the role at some point in his career, there was a twist. Forget about Fine, it’s the woman giving him directions in his earpiece that we should be caring about, for she was an agent stuck back at headquarters, Susan Cooper played by one of the big comedy stars of the twenty-tens, Melissa McCarthy. It had been created for her by writer and director Paul Feig who really wanted to helm a Bond movie but knew he’d never have the chance at the official franchise, an impulse of just about everyone who has ever spoofed 007 since Dr. No was such a success.
The joke was, with her rotund frame and short stature, not to mention her gender, McCarthy was about as far away from Bond as it was possible to get, though unlikely physical aspects could only get you so far in the parody stakes, so she and Feig wisely didn’t make that her entire act. What they did instead was make another unlikely juxtaposition, where Susan had a meek, polite and submissive personality (as we see when she is clearly in love with Fine so puts up with his goodnatured dismissal of how reliant on her he is), and place her in situations where she had to become a foul-mouthed, hard as nails woman of action. Which was all very well as Susan must travel to Europe to pick up where the now-incapacitated Fine left off, but that was more or less your lot as far as entertainment went.
It was basically that same joke over and over, which generated the odd chuckle for the first hour, but as it was plain this was the only trick up the film’s sleeve, the humour grew wearing. Now, insult comedy as a stand-up act had a long and venerable history, but turning McCarthy into a female Don Rickles for a way overlong two hours could only take you so far before you started wondering if Feig had any other flavours. Well, he did, he put the profanity-laden mockery into the mouths of other characters, which let’s face it was pretty much the same thing again, but there was one actor who benefited since his image was one of the hardman, and he was Jason Statham. He was obviously having a whale of a time as Feig encouraged improvisation, and his list of incredible feats he would roll out at any given moment sounded weirdly authentic.
I mean, sure, they were ridiculous, but you could just about envisage Statham getting up to that sort of mayhem in one of the movies where we were supposed to take him seriously, which brightened a rather monotonous experience every time he turned up as a rogue agent to send himself up. Feig was evidently enamoured of the Brits and their sense of humour, as also in the cast aside from Statham and Law were Miranda Hart as Susan’s best friend who provides the same service for her as she did for Fine, and proved a likeable presence if lacking in any zingers, and impressionist and comedian Peter Serafinowicz as a randy Italian agent who had a few wacky moments as befitting his irreverent persona. Allison Janney was there as the boss to be waspish, but she was a pussycat compared to Rose Byrne who was our villainess, doing everyone down and becoming tiresome in her venomous hatred of the rest of humanity. You get the idea, it was two hours of stunts, fights, but in the main barbs and putdowns at every turn, mostly crude when wit would have been welcome. Music by Theodore Shapiro.