My wife and I visited the Morris theatre to see The Spy Who Dumped Me. I have mixed feelings about this one — it’s got actors I generally like, it whizzed along at a good clip, and there were a few laughs in it, but the story. Jeez, the story.
I can sort of imagine how this thing was pitched, as a mish-mash of common tropes. It’s a fish out of water story, and it’s a spy story, and it’s a buddy movie, and the two buddies are women. There’s a mcguffin! Also, it’s got John Wickian moments of ultra-violence! Plus, clever moments of subtle comedy, where female spies have the advantage of a special place where they can hide the mcguffin. It’ll be great!
On the positive side, Mila Kunis is good, and Kate McKinnon is…antic. I like McKinnon, but the eye-bulging mugging is more appropriate for impersonating Giuliani, and got to be a bit much (a phrase used within the movie to describe her character). She’s not really acting here, but is going over the top ala Jim Carrey. I’m looking forward to the day she calms down and tries to build a character on a serious foundation.
This is supposed to be a comedy, but it is also set in what looks like a very dark universe, populated with mostly evil characters. Kunis meets the spy (the one who will dump her) in a bar, and later it turns out that the bar is full of other spies watching her. They later have to try to exchange the mcguffin in a Vienna cafe, and everyone there, patrons, waitstaff, bartender, everyone, is armed to the teeth and trying to get their hands on the mcguffin, and it erupts into a fierce gun battle in which everyone is shooting at everyone else, there’s no sense of who is on what side, and you don’t really care who wins. But it’s an excuse to double-tap people in the head, knife them, break necks, and leave a bloody tableau of corpses sprawled all over the floor and furniture. It’s a bit much, and doesn’t mesh well with any sense of comedy.
While it moves along from moment to moment, with fragments of entertainment no matter how discordant with each other, the overall plot is a mess. The ending feels like something that was cobbled together without regard for prior events, just to bring it to a conclusion, and there’s no sense of continuity in the story. Mild plot spoilers below — but trust me, they don’t really matter, because it’s not as if knowing them affects the flow of the story, or that there is a story that needs to be resolved.
OK, maybe this is a major plot spoiler, if you’re assuming the plot makes any sense at all. Last chance to back out.
The titular spy is murdered in plain sight after he passes on the mcguffin to Mila Kunis — he’s shot at point blank range by a naked one-night stand Kate McKinnon had brought in (See? Everyone is a bad guy), and the two heroes even frantically check for a pulse before announcing he’s dead and fleeing in a panic with the mcguffin. This is the whole premise of the movie: they have to complete his mission, or thousands of lives might be lost.
But at the end, the spy suddenly reappears, not a scratch on him, and no explanation for how he survived, and it turns out he was a villain himself — he has returned to demand the return of his mcguffin. Why he went through this elaborate charade and expected two utterly unqualified people to stumble through a series of life-threatening events, including torture, to deliver something to Europe that he had already in his possession is also unexplained. Why he had a year-long relationship with this woman before dumping her and launching her on a complex, dangerous mission…unexplained.
It’s almost as if the writers knew they were writing a spy story, and spy stories need surprising double-crosses, so they fill the plot with random reversals with no need for motivation or logic. It’s just everybody against everybody, and that’s sufficient justification.
So it ends with a confusing bit of chaos that makes no sense. It’s like the writers had laid out all these intricate threads of plot, and at the end, they just resolved everything by tying them in one big tangled knot and setting it on fire.
And then our fish out of water decide they love spy games, become professional secret agents, and close the movie by murdering some people in some random caper. Really.
Definitely do not watch this movie if coherent plotting is something you expect. Sure, enjoy it if you like seeing Kunis and McKinnon working together.
BlackKKlansman is also playing at the theater. I think I’ll have to check that one out, if nothing else to cleanse out my impression of The Spy Who Dumped Me.