The Spy Who Dumped Me, Beirut, On Chesil Beach, Summer 1993
STARRING: Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux
DIRECTOR: Susanna Fogel
IN CINEMAS: Thursday (MA 15+)
VERDICT: Violently funny
THERE’S a moment in this wildly entertaining, female-driven action comedy where Justin Theroux’s spy cruelly describes Kate McKinnon’s character as “a little much”.
And for me, Saturday Night Live comedian McKinnon can be just that — when she doesn’t have the right team behind her. But Mila Kunis, as the jilted straight woman of the title, grounds her crazy co-star beautifully.
And director Susanna Fogel gives McKinnon’s free-form comedy solos enough room to breath — without letting them undermine the overall structure.
The climactic sequence in which McKinnon’s character, Morgan, disguises herself as a member of Cirque de Soleil troupe is a good example.
Dressed in a stripey, ruffled costume, the wayward comedian is clearly in her element.
Desperate to take part in the show, Morgan eventually finds an excuse to clamber to the top of the highest trapeze platform, where she comes face to face with the ruthless Russian assassin and former gymnast known as Nadedja (Ivanna Sakhno).
The ensuing mid-air showdown is brutal and funny.
Kunis is equally well served by this comedic partnership.
Her character, Audrey, is catapulted into the middle of an international espionage crisis when the boyfriend (Theroux) who dumped her goes missing somewhere in Lithuania (unbeknown to Audrey, he was an undercover CIA agent).
Following his disappearance, the underachieving checkout chick becomes the target of an endless stream of gangsters, assassins, double agents and undercover operatives who are all desperate to get their hands on the precious item her ex left behind.
Unable to tell the good guys from the bad, Audrey and Morgan take matters into their own hands.
But when the planned handover at a cafe in Austria ends in a violent bloodbath, the two women flee the country, criss-crossing Europe until they are kidnapped.
Although they are novices, Audrey and Morgan acquit themselves surprisingly well under pressure.
Thanks to her wasted hours in video arcades, Audrey is handy with a gun. She’s also calm in a crisis.
Morgan’s impulsive, boots-and-all approach also proves oddly effective.
Sam Heughan’s smooth-talking British agent, Sebastian Henshaw, is a good foil for these two lead characters.
And Gillian Anderson gives Judi Dench a run for her money as the MI6 chief.
Directed with a light, confident touch, The Spy Who Dumped Me is a female buddy movie that knows exactly what to do with the additional X chromosome.
Kunis and McKinnon have a natural screen chemistry that is supported by the film’s screenplay, co-written by Fogel.
Character-generated comedy, over-the-top action, kamikaze karaoke — what more could moviegoers ask for?
An offbeat celebration of female friendship. VICKY ROACH
Kate McKinnon and Mila Kunis in The Spy Who Dumped Me.