These days the spy genre leans so hard into self-mockery that it’s difficult to distinguish straight spy thrillers from a genuine parody. At times though The Spy Who Dumped Me feels like it has the opposite problem. An out-and-out comedy about two American idiots who stumble into a Jason Bourne-esque thriller when it turns out that one of the girl’s ex-boyfriend was a CIA agent.
It’s the kind of premise that makes a solid spy comedy; in which average, bumbling non-spy Audrey, played by Mila Kunis, is thrown into a full-blown espionage thriller filled with high-intensity gunfights, car chases and hand-to-hand combat. All while joined by her equally hapless best-friend Morgan i.e. Kate McKinnon playing…basically Kate McKinnon. The only problem is that the film tries to sell the ‘spy’ aspect so hard that it occasionally forgets about the ‘comedy’ part. With the action being so well-executed; with slick cinematography and expertly choreographed combat on par with the like of Jason Bourne or Mission Impossible.
But it all works so well that if it weren’t for the occasional cut-away to Kunis and McKinnon shrieking hysterically it might as well exist in an entirely different movie. Aside from the occasional gag of an unconventional weapon, like a fondue bowl used in a particularly grisly manner, there’s barely any acknowledgement that any of the action is supposed to be funny.
Like most American comedies The Spy Who Dumped Me relies a little too much on it’s leads to carry the film. Fortunately, those leads are Kunis and McKinnon; either of whom could carry the film on their own.
Together the two work like gangbusters with McKinnon’s on usual form playing a mix of her usual performative randomness with a dash of being too try-hardy. Whether it’s trying to protect Audrey from sleezy guys or impress Gillian Anderson’s head of MI6, she always comes of as excessively eager to impress. It’s the first time since Ghostbusters that she’s invested a great deal of pathos into her on-screen persona. Once again playing a character who openly knows she’s the ‘weird one’ and sometimes living up to that image is kind of a bummer.
Kunis is in typical leading lady mode here; playing Audrey as a frustrated, somewhat listless woman going into her thirties with no intention of growth. It makes for a relatable character to throw into all the sensational madness and Kunis sells both the characters vulnerability and turn towards reluctant badass. If there’s a problem, it’s that the film never finds a solid comedic hook to hang her character off. Perhaps that’s down to director Susanna Fogel just letting Kunis bounce of McKinnon, which certainly isn’t a bad decision. If nothing else the two leads have fantastic chemistry together, especially when the action stops and we get to see moments of genuine tenderness between two friends.
As is typical of the spy genre the plot is completely convoluted and nonsensical. It all revolves around a flash drive with a list of terrorist targets that everyone is killing and double-crossing each other to get at. Yet the film never seems to want to riff on how generic this all is. Multiple characters betray each other, and no one ever seems to mention how illogical their betrayal is given everything previously established. The plot contorts itself with so many twists that is seems to actively be trying to get lost up itself. Which is probably why, at almost two hours, the film runs a little longer than in needs to.
The Spy Who Dumped me is the kind of good film where you spend too much time thinking about how is could be so much better. For what it’s worth it’s a consistently funny double act that runs from mildly amusing to outright hysterical at times. Certainly, in these dying days of summer blockbusters we could do a lot worse.