A spy-spoof action-comedy starring Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon, The Spy Who Dumped Me is way more violent and funny than the lazy, mid-90s punning title would suggest. But the pair work remarkably well together on screen, making for an unexpectedly sparky and entertaining duo in a movie that swings madly from some actually-very-good gunfights to plonky goofiness.
Kunis plays Audrey, an organic food market cashier unceremoniously dumped over text message by off-screen boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux), who unbeknownst to all is a secret agent working for the CIA. McKinnon plays her excitable best friend Morgan, and immediately catapults her role from quirky comedy sidekick to show-stealing talent.
Their unashamedly McGuffin-led adventure leads them to a dramatic car chase in a rideshare through Brussels and a precisely choreographed and surprisingly violent shootout in a Vienna restaurant, which wouldn’t look out of place in a Bourne film. Throughout the trip, McKinnon has most of the film’s best lines – when their espionage-ing takes them to Austria she notes how, “they really play up that Mozart is from here, and they really downplay that Hitler was from here”.
The Spy Who Dumped Me is an action film with some comedy speed bumps, and gratifyingly the running joke isn’t the floundering incompetence of its female leads. Whereas Melissa McCarthy (McKinnon’s fellow SNL alumnus, who somehow /also/ felt the lure of the genre) was the comically blundering butt of 2015 crowd-pleaser Spy, here the gags are more rooted in the friendship between the pair, and their constant alarm at just how decent a job they’re doing at being spies and shooting people.
That little hyphen between action and comedy can be felt throughout however, and the film’s tone is often too straight-faced to support the weaker gags. It’s McKinnon’s faintly unhinged charm that carries The Spy Who Dumped Me over the finish line.