Review – ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ misses the action-comedy balance

Luke Stevenson is one of the hosts of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast. He is only serious about Bee Movie.

Poster for 2018 action-comedy film The Spy Who Dumped Me

Genre: Comedy/Action
Certificate: 15
UK Release Date: 22nd August 2018
Runtime: 117 minutes
Director: Susanna Fogel
Writer: Susanna Fogel, David Iserson
Starring: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Sam Heughan, Gillian Anderson, Ivanna Sakhno, Hasan Minhaj
Synopsis: A woman and her best friend find themselves on the run from spies and terrorists when she becomes embroiled in a messy conspiracy involving her ex-boyfriend.

When is a film that stockpiles the comedic talents of Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis not funny? In this case, it’s when it tries to juxtapose its comedy with hard-edged blood, gore and extended torture sequences. The Spy Who Dumped Me is the latest addition to the spy/comedy genre mash-up, but where others have allowed one of its genres to dominate proceedings, this struggles with its attempts to bridge the gap between pussy jokes and people being stabbed in the hand.

While courting a mature rating gives writer-director Susanna Fogel more freedom to be rude and violent, it could also be the cause of its greatest weakness. Is Kate McKinnon trying to mug at the camera funny when Mila Kunis is being tortured on the left-hand side of the frame? Is a comedy trapeze set piece funny when it ends with someone being skewered in half? Is someone shoving a key item in their vagina to avoid detection funny when it’s the result of a brain addled by roofies? It’s a slender tightrope to walk, and it isn’t one this film manages with enough flair.

The plot is as good as explained in the title. Kunis plays Audrey,who is a normal woman in a relationship with Drew (Justin Theroux). He mysteriously dumps her over text one day and, following this, it is revealed he was a CIA operative trying to prevent the world’s criminals from getting hold of a hard drive which is now in Audrey’s possession. She seeks to return it to safe hands, aided by her best friend Morgan (McKinnon).

It’s a shame really that, although there are jokes in this movie, it’s only the punches that land. The majority of the flair and timing is reserved for the action sequences, but the movie still wants to provide plenty of time for its comedy leads to do their work. Kunis and McKinnon admirably try to deliver, but the results are flat, as there is a lack of the sufficient dynamism needed to make this high-speed comedy caper feel pacy. The result is a drag, with sub-John Wick action visuals breaking up long sequences where you can hear the laughter straining to break through, but never quite making it.

It’s not all negative in The Spy Who Dumped Me. Kunis and McKinnon give committed performances, even if they are let down by a script that runs down continual blind alleys and a directorial style that never gets the best out of them, even if Fogel does deliver some thrills in the action sequences. Overall though, you can’t help feeling that, with an exhausting running time of almost nearly two hours, you would be best placed dumping this movie before opening a relationship with it.

Pop or Poop?

Rating: Poop!

Despite capable comedic leads in Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis, The Spy Who Dumped Me gets trapped between its two genres and is never able to find a coherent balance. It juxtaposes its jokes with genuinely shocking violence and, as a result, it’s seldom as funny as a comedy needs to be and really loses steam as the plot amps up in the second half of its bloated narrative.

Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.

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