FILM REVIEW – THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME. With Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Justin Theroux, Hasan Minhaj, Sam Heughan. Written by Susanna Fogel & David Iserson. Directed by Susanna Fogel. Rated R for violence, language throughout, some crude sexual material and graphic nudity. 116 minutes.
The buddy action comedy has a long history, with last summer’s “The Hitman’s Bodyguard” being a recent example. Team-ups of two women occur less often, and 2013’s “The Heat” was a good reason why. Yet it ought to work – if the comic team has chemistry. Pairing up Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon (finally in a starring role in a movie) is why THE SPY WHO DUMPED ME works as well as it does.
Audrey (Kunis) and Morgan (McKinnon) are two single thirty-year-olds who are best friends. Audrey’s boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) has just broken up with her via text message, and she’s feeling blue. When Morgan suggests they burn the things Drew left in her apartment – and then sends him a text to that effect – he shows up to make amends. Unfortunately, he also has a hit team after him.
Soon Audrey and Morgan are off to Vienna to deliver something to a mysterious contact, and the movie turns into a variation of the current “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” with plenty of spies, chases, shootouts, and explosions. The difference is that the earlier film plays it straight while offering some comic relief, while this one goes for broad comedy and then provides what might be called “dramatic relief.” People die, our heroines are tortured (by a nasty Russian gymnast), and they go racing around Europe being chased by seemingly everyone.
Director Susanna Fogel (who co-wrote the script with David Iserson), keeps the focus on the two women who are in over their heads yet keep rolling with whatever is thrown at them. Along the way they meet up with a British spy (Sam Heughan) partnered with a CIA agent (Hasan Minhaj) who seem to be working at cross-purposes. As often happens in serious spy films, the key issue is who can be trusted.
However, it’s the dynamic between Kunis and McKinnon that makes this film different. They’re close friends and back each other up. It would have been easy to make Audrey more of a patsy given that Morgan’s brashness is her signifying character trait. Yet the one moment where they seem at odds is when Morgan insists that Audrey acknowledge how amazing she has been under the circumstances.
“The Spy Who Dumped Me” is a typical August release. With only a few weeks of the summer movie season left the studios are no longer looking for movies that will play for months, as they are in May or June. Instead, it provides its two young stars a chance to play at being superspies (although it’s unlikely they did their own stunts as Tom Cruise did for “Mission: Impossible) while getting some laughs. Fans of Kunis and McKinnon, and of the genre, should find it an enjoyable escape from the late summer heat.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.