Look, I get accused of being a contrarian a lot. I hated Deadpool. I love Geostorm. I’ll fight you over my adoration for The Force Awakens and I will fight you over your adoration for Rogue One. But I promise you that I don’t come into movies looking to pick at the critical consensus; no matter how it may seem, I don’t look for arguments in the movies I see. And I want you to bear that in mind as I launch into this screed about how much I loved the critically-maligned The Spy Who Dumped Me.
Because, to be quite straight with you, this movie wildly entertaining. And not just in the “well, it’s good for what it is, I guess” sense: I’ve watched a lot of romantic comedies over the years, and hell, I write romance in my other life, so I’m pretty well-acquainted with the world of romance tropes and how utterly, brutally overdone they are in almost every movie that churns them out. But The Spy Who Dumped Me isn’t in it for the tropes – no, it’s in it to create an outrageously entertaining comedy with some of the best action you’ll see this year.
The premise is pretty straightforward: Audrey (Mila Kunis) is reeling from the sudden break-up of her relationship with Drew (Justin Theroux), who is swiftly revealed to be a spy working at high levels of counter-intelligence, landing both Audrey and her best friend (the love of my life Kate MacKinnon) caught up in an globe-trotting endeavour to save his skin.
Honestly, when I saw the trailer for this movie, I was certain that it was going to be nothing but average jokes and Sam Heughan looking great in a suit (which, in all fairness, he does). But The Spy Who Dumped Me doesn’t feel like it’s been slapped together as a star vehicle for rapidly-rising star Heughan (of Outlander fame) or as a box office-certainty with the likes of Mackinnon and Kunis. As I mentioned above, the action is honestly unreasonably great, with a selection of creative, energetic, breathtakingly cool sequences strung together over the course of the movie, from a shootout in a fancy restaurant to a aerial acrobatics murder and Heughan has fairly marked himself out as a charismatic, dynamic action hero should anybody be looking (and they should be).
And beyond that, the jokes are actually, you know, funny. Nothing has left me with less faith in comedy as a genre that the crushing decade we had of just Seth Rogen and his mates stonedly riffing on whatever mayonnaise premise they’d come up with that pitch meeting, and boy, with the release of stuff like Game Night, Blockers, and now this, it’s great to see comedy with a little ambition. Deft and well-delivered, any rough edges are easy to forgive when the gags are as consistent and sharp as they are here. The comedy make great use of the cast, and Mackinnon and Kunis share an easy, manic energy that actually sells them as best friends as opposed to what male writers think female best friends should be. And the naturally-camp spy genre leaves plenty of space for sly fun within it’s own tropes.
And that’s really all I have to say here. It’s not that this is some soaring masterpiece of a movie or anything, but it does the job and does it well, with some style and actual flair in there too. When I read the reviews of this movie, it was hard for me to understand what people had a problem with – it’s funny, the action is killer, the performances are committed and fun. Is it ground-breaking? Nope, but that doesn’t render it bad by default. Sharp, witty, and even a little ambitious. The Spy Who Dumped Me is the delightful antidote to the po-faced action flicks of 2018 thus far.
By Louise MacGregor
(header image courtesy of The Advocate)