Buddy comedies are something of a relic these days, with most comedies relying on ensemble casts to theoretically capitalize on the strategy of throwing a bunch of funny personalities together and seeing what sticks. This has led to comedies becoming lewder and less thoroughly written, and often they hedge their bets enough to hit a PG-13 rating for maximum four-quadrant appeal, though that has certainly curbed somewhat since the success of films like Deadpool that revel in cutting loose with a hard R. So it’s perhaps only natural that an R-rated two-hander comedy would eventually make its way to the big screen, and The Spy Who Dumped Me is just as much playing with farcical blood spectacle as it is with the spy tropes the title alludes to.
Audrey (Mila Kunis) is celebrating her birthday when her boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) breaks up with her via text message. However, when MI6 pulls Audrey off the street to interrogate her, she learns that Drew is actually a spy with the CIA and broke up with her to protect her, though he left an intelligence Macguffin (in the form of a second place fantasy football trophy) in her apartment that has made her a target. At the goading of her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon), the pair flies to Austria to deliver the object to Drew’s associate, only for things to go tits up as spy intrigue sucks Audrey and Morgan into a shitstorm of shenanigans.
Predictably enough, Kunis and McKinnon have fantastic chemistry. Kunis takes on protagonist and straightwoman duties that require her character to develop sillier traits as she needs to adapt to the escalating action she finds herself embroiled in, and at this point of her career, Kunis is such a damn pro at the incredulity shtick that it lands perfectly. But of course, it’s McKinnon who proves once again why she’s one of the best in the biz, landing everything from word jokes to physical gags to topical observations of sexism into a whirlwind of charm and attitude that absolutely steals the show. If you’ve loved anything McKinnon has done before, The Spy Who Dumped Me has your number and has you on speed dial.
But what makes The Spy Who Dumped Me stand out is that it is wholly committed to its R rating, not just lobbing out F-bombs or relying on gross-out humor, but instead going full bore on the gore for an astoundingly bloody collection of action beats. Director and co-writer Susanna Fogel not only demonstrates a deft sense for comic timing and playing to her leads’ strengths, but her action chops are incredibly solid, sometimes providing such visceral thrills that it’s easy to forget they exist primarily to set up the next juxtapositional gag. It’s also pretty great to watch Kunis and McKinnon evolve from passive observers to full-on participants, not necessarily getting intense with the stunt work but bridging that gap between comedienne and everywoman hero, succeeding in a narrative world dominated by narrow-sighted men who constantly underestimate them and a female gymnastic assassin (Ivanna Sakhno) whom they must rise to defeat.
The Spy Who Dumped Me is still a pretty disposable experience, with convoluted plot points that don’t really add up after all is said and done with. Some jokes are clearly improvised but don’t quite land with the same force as their written counterparts, though Kunis and McKinnon are also really good at making each other laugh, which helps immensely. But August theatrical releases are all about this sort of lighthearted disposability, something to laugh at with strangers as the air conditioning lets you forget about the outside world for two hours. Even though you’ll end up remembering the joyous feelings much more than any particular gag by the time you get home, The Spy Who Dumped Me succeeds at being a bloody good time.