Spy (Cert 15)
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Jude Law, Jason Statham, Rose Byrne, Miranda Hart, Allison Janney, Bobby Cannavale, 50 Cent.
Suave secret agent Bradley Fine (Jude Law) completes some of the CIA’s most dangerous missions thanks to the quick-thinking and hi-tech gadgetry of analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy).
He takes all of the acclaim while Susan remains firmly in the background.
When Bradley and other agents, including British bruiser Rick Ford (Jason Statham), are compromised, Susan puts herself forward for active duty to infiltrate the inner circle of arms dealer Rayna Boyanov (Rose Byrne).
CIA deputy director Elaine Crocker (Allison Janney) places her trust in Susan to complete the perilous mission without any field experience.
Guided by her dithering colleague Nancy Artingstall (Melissa Hart), Susan adopts a series of dowdy disguises to get close to Rayna and scheming Sergio De Luca (Bobby Cannavale) without arousing suspicion.
Neatly timed for release on home formats as Spectre shoots to kill in cinemas, Spy is a terrifically entertaining caper, which would leave James Bond decidedly shaken and stirred by the heroine’s unorthodox approach to 21st-century espionage.
McCarthy throws herself into her role with gusto, mixing steeliness with lovability as she battles armed henchmen, speeds after a target on a scooter and tries to stop a bad guy from escaping in his helicopter.
Hart essentially plays herself, but she’s a snug fit amidst a strong Anglo-American cast. The spirit of 007 pervades every glossy frame, but with old-school chauvinism turned on its head to affirm a message of girl power and independence.
Brains arm-wrestle brawn in writer-director Paul Feig’s politically incorrect and uproarious script, including an amusing cameo from rapper 50 Cent as himself.
Self/less (Cert 12)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Natalie Martinez, Matthew Goode, Sir Ben Kingsley, Victor Garber, Derek Luke, Michelle Dockery, Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen.
New York industrialist Damian Hale (Sir Ben Kingsley) is a force of nature in the boardroom, but is no match for cancer.
With less than sixth months to live, Damian contacts Phoenix Biogenic run by the enigmatic Professor Albright (Matthew Goode), who has pioneered a medical procedure known as “shedding”, which transplants the consciousness of wealthy patrons into a healthy body.
Damian stages his death and reawakens as a 30-something hunk (Ryan Reynolds).
He studies a prepared identity, entrepreneur Edward Kittner, and starts afresh with stashed millions in New Orleans.
Every day, Damian must take a red pill to stave off hallucinations, which Albright passes off as “glitches”.
When he misses one dose, vivid images of a single mother (Natalie Martinez) and daughter (Jaynee-Lynne Kinchen) flood Damian’s brain, suggesting that Albright fibbed about the provenance of the genetically engineered host body.
Self/less is a humdrum action thriller replete with bone-cracking fist fights that could — with more finesse — have been a thought-provoking futuristic nightmare, begging tantalising theological questions about self-preservation and self-sacrifice.
Instead, the script focuses on kidnapping, gun battles and high-speed car chases.
Arguably the most important conversation in the film unfolds at a distance without any audio, so writers David and Alex Pastor don’t have to craft the perfect, heartbreaking dialogue.
Reynolds’ innate likeability can only sustain our interest so far and the script repeatedly lets him down.
Action sequences speak louder than words in Tarsem Singh’s disappointing film.