“Girls with guns and buns?”
If not perhaps your prototypical action heroine, this is a thoroughly amusing and very entertaining feature, managing both to spoof and pay homage to the entire genre of its title. Susan Cooper (McCarthy) is really good at her job, which is being a support analyst for the CIA’s top agent, Bradley Fine (Law). He is gunned down while on the trail of a stolen nuclear warhead, by the evil Rayna Boyanov (Byrne), who also knows the identity of all the agency’s other field agents. Susan, who has been behind a desk her whole career, so is unknown to the outside world, convinces her boss she should go after Rayna, much to the disgust of Fine’s colleague, Rick Ford (Statham). What is supposed to be an “observe and report” mission becomes more, after Cooper saves Boyanov’s line and becomes part of her inner circle, giving her a chance to find the location of the missing bomb, yet also putting Susan in grave danger.
I’ve seen McCarthy before, most notably enduring (thanks, Chris!) Bridesmaids, where she seemed a bit of a one-note actress: “It’s funny, ‘cos I’m big.” I was expecting much the same here, with not much more than two hours of fat jokes. However, on the basis of this, I was wrong; just as Peter Dinklage is an actor who happens to be short, so it appears McCarthy is an actress who happens to be large. For instance, at one point, she has to pretend to be a bodyguard assigned to take care of Rayna by her father. She nails it, spitting out lines such as, “I’m gong to reach through your fucking body and rip out your back like a fucking werewolf” [yeah, it’s gleefully R-rated for language] with such a remarkable degree of badass commitment, that she is entirely convincing as such. Hell, there’s even a brawl in a kitchen, whee Cooper goes up against an assassin sent after Boyanov, which is remarkably solid [and makes sense, because it was set up earlier, when we see a video of Cooper during her training where she showed similar skills]. Implausible? Well, not if you’ve ever seen Sammo Hung in action.
Beyond McCarthy, what particularly elevates this is a slew of excellent supporting performances. While Byrne chews the scenery to very good effect as a villainess, it’s Statham and Hart who steal just about every scene they are in. Statham is, more or less, parodying every other role he has had, spinning utterly implausible tall tales of his derring-do, e.g. “I’m immune to 179 different types of poison. I know because I ingested them all at once when I was deep undercover in an underground poison-ingesting crime ring.” Hart, we have known and loved for some time due to her BBC show, Miranda, and she plays much the same delightfully klutzy, self-effacing persona here, to the extent we suspect she probably wrote her own dialogue. This trio form a solid foundation, off which McCarthy can bounce her personas, to excellent effect, and I’m now rather more confident in Feig’s upcoming reboot of Ghostbusters. The female cast there did initially seem more than a tad stunty, but on the basis of this, he and McCarthy would seem to have a decent shot at pulling it off. A very pleasant surprise, on a number of levels.
Dir: Paul Feig
Star: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham, Miranda Hart