Review: The Spy Who Dumped Me
The Spy Who Dumped Me does not bring anything exceptionally new to the spy spoof genre. It does succeed, however, at being a solid action comedy. Director and co-writer Susanna Fogel has one feature film under her belt previous to this—Life Partners, a romantic comedy which also features two strong female leads. She plays to her strengths of course, developing the female friendship of Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon’s characters, while also setting up action set pieces with the diligence of a grizzled action filmmaker.
We’re tossed into this spy tale by following the exploits of CIA agent Drew Thayer (Justin Theroux). He gets chased down by a squad of hitmen and goes on to dismantle each them with his Jason Bourne-esque theatrics. This over-the-top cold open is intercut with Audrey’s (Kunis) 30th birthday party, hosted by her best friend Morgan (McKinnon). It’s here, right away, that we see Fogel’s balancing act of action and character-interplay at work. McKinnon brings her natural maniac radiance to the character of Morgan; completely devoted to her friend, she tries to comfort Audrey after a breakup with Drew. Unbeknownst to them, Audrey’s ex-boyfriend/spy left an important “package” at her place, and killers of all sorts are after him and her ex as a result. This little McGuffin sends the two women on a trip to Eastern Europe, dodging assassins, MI6, and the CIA along the way.
Hand-to-hand combat, gun fights, car chases; The Spy Who Dumped Me checks off a lot of the spy-action boxes. One sequence in particular is more thrilling than a lot of recent action set pieces. It finds the women escaping a gun-wielding assassin on a motorcycle. They jump into a Lyft and speed through Vienna; the chase itself has enough twists and turns to engage even the most jaded action aficionado.
While there is plenty of focus on the action, plenty of time is devoted to both leads’ character arcs—Audrey deals with being underappreciated, having just been dumped, turning 30, and working at a grocery store, she seems to be good at one thing: video games. She turns out to be a good fit for the wetworks at play, taking out the bad guys like they were birds in Duck Hunt. Morgan, meanwhile, is perceived as being “too much” by a few men throughout the film—she’s an exuberant, struggling actress in L.A. who ends up using her set of skills, with the help of her parents (Jane Curtin, Paul Reiser), to get the duo out of trouble. The film isn’t afraid to take a break for the two to share touching moments, while still delivering sufficient R-rated comedy goods (in addition to the mandatory dick and fart jokes).
The side characters offer up just enough to help fill out this espionage world. Hasan Minhaj and Gillian Anderson, respectively, play intelligence agents on the search of the “package”; Minhaj in particular has his moments, while Anderson’s role is minimal, but she doesn’t have to do much at all to make her presence felt. Ivanna Sakhno is a stand-out, playing assassin/model/gymnast Nadedja. Sakhno is a steely, cold, and dangerous foil for both Audrey and Morgan, and gets a few well-earned laughs. Sam Heughan rounds out the main cast, playing MI6 agent Sebastian, who may or may not be working for the bad guys, and who may or may not be a potential love interest for Audrey. He’s just a little too bland of an actor against everyone else in the cast, and it turns out the best chemistry is between Audrey and Morgan.
The Spy Who Dumped Me’s plot has pacing issues, never really picking up in the middle after its fast-paced opening act. The plot twists may not surprise anyone who has consumed their fair share of espionage thrillers, but the film is never too shallow. What’s more refreshing than anything is seeing the likes of Kunis and McKinnon up front, carrying an action-comedy of this caliber.