‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ review: Uneven but wildly fun

While most of the jokes fall on a sitcom level, Susanna Fogel’s ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ still makes a serviceable action-buddy cop film, clearly overt with its feminist themes.

Coming out a week after the release of Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Susanna Fogel’s The Spy Who Dumped Me, though not the first of its own, is a subversive move to empower women in what arguably has been a sexist spy thriller genre. Wild car chases and bloody shootouts with women screaming and trying to survive the rough stuff – it takes in the form of an action-comedy but it also works as a hybrid of many subgenres. It can be a buddy-cop or a fish out of water story. Civilian bestfriends Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon) get themselves into a deadly European excursion when they found out that Audrey’s charming ex-boyfriend Drew (Justin Theroux) is actually a CIA agent who’s been hunted down by assassins for a vital piece of information – a USB flash drive no less.

It’s a weak MacGuffin but this is the type of story where you won’t care much about the plot (why are they doing that again?) and it just reels you in for the action and gags. For one, the film has decent and serviceable action set pieces to make it at least par with big known franchises – it’s not high art, but it’s fun enough. It even gets into black comedy territory as violence is interspersed with slapstick humor. A rendezvous at a fine dining restaurant turns into a free-for-all, Kingsman-inspired killing spree (even a cheese fondue gets weaponized). Morgan fights off a russian, android-like gymnast (Ivanna Sakhno) during a Cirque du Soleil trapeze performance. An eager uber driver gets shot in the face and such morbidness earns unguarded laughs from the audience. The body count is surprisingly higher than you expect. Director Fogel does not downplay on grisly deaths just because she’s dealing with ladies.

Justin Theroux as CIA agent Drew Thayer, the spy who dumped Audrey.

Chemistry-wise, Kunis and McKinnon make a fine dynamic duo and the film often puts them in sticky situations to generate frantic humor, but not exaggerated enough to make them look dumb. One of the hilarious scenes seen in the trailer is when the two attempt to hijack a fancy car, only to discover a stick shift that neither of them knows how to operate. Kunis is exasperated with this whole espionage crisis yet she has a likable screen presence that can easily be empathized with. While the film seems to be more interested in building up a possible romance between her and another dapper CIA spy Sebastian (Sam Heughan), Kunis’ scenes work better when she plays the straight role to McKinnon’s lunacy.

Speaking of, the film owes a lot of charisma from McKinnon’s shameless antics. The SNL cast member scored her first major role in 2016’s gender bender Ghostbusters reboot and in here she finally gets a lead role. She may play second fiddle to Kunis but for the most part, she steals the show. There is something mischievous and unhinged in her performance that glues your attention to her. “You’re the boss, and yet you have not sacrificed one ounce of femininity? That is the Beyonce of the government,” she says to a female CIA division head (Gillian Anderson), desperately trying to prove a point. Her feminist-themed jokes can be a hit and miss, especially when the script reiterates so much of it towards the end. But what more could she do with an even better material?

Sebastian Henshaw (Sam Heughan), Audrey (Mila Kunis) and Morgan (Kate McKinnon). Photo by Lionsgate.

The Spy Who Dumped Me is ambitious enough to try different ideas to the point that it feels tonally uneven. Its perfunctory spy plot could have benefited from a shorter run time but overall, it’s nice to see an original action-comedy film entertain without the help from any previous franchise. Sitcom punchlines and all, it shines best when it focuses on the two women’s friendship and their shenanigans. If you are sold by McKinnon’s eccentric goofiness alone, then you already have your money’s worth.

3.5 out of 5 stars

Distributed by Lionsgate, ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me‘ is now showing starring Mila Kunis, Kate McKinnon, Sam Heughan, Justin Theroux, Gillian Anderson, Hasan Minhaj and Ivanna Sakhno, Fred Melamed, Jane Curtain and Paul Reiser.. Directed by Susanna Fogel, written by Fogel and David Iserson. Run time: 117 minutes.

Luke Evans, Justin Theroux, Edgar Ramirez star in ‘The Girl on the Train’

Luke Evans (“Fast & Furious” franchise), Justin Theroux (“The Leftovers”) and Edgar Ramirez (“Deliver Us from Evil”) provide the masculine presence in the female-centric tale, “The Girl on the Train” from Paramount Pictures. The film also stars Emily Blunt, Rebecca Ferguson and Haley Bennett.

Based on Paula Hawkins’ bestselling novel, “The Girl on the Train” is directed by Tate Taylor (“The Help”) and adapted for the screen by Erin Cressida Wilson. In the film, Rachel (Blunt), who is devastated by her recent divorce, spends her daily commute fantasizing about the seemingly perfect couple who live in a house that her train passes every day, until one morning she sees something shocking happen there and becomes entangled in the mystery that unfolds.

To cast the two key male roles was just as crucial, according to producer Marc Platt. “It’s interesting to be involved in a film that’s so female-centric,” he says. “Usually, it’s the guys who are more complicated and then there’s the ‘girl’ role, and our challenge here was to develop characters that wouldn’t just be the ‘boy’ role in a film about the women. The story is also very much about the men.”

To play the role of Tom, a father caught between his new wife and an ex who is deteriorating into the madness of addiction, the filmmakers cast Justin Theroux, who can currently be seen starring in the hit series “The Leftovers.”

For Theroux, “The Girl on the Train” is all about appearances. He describes: “It’s set in this suburban place, just upstate, just outside of the city. So there is that picket-fence element to it, and wondering what’s behind those perfect little shutters and curtains.” For a passenger peering into the homes she passes by, however, the view becomes more intimate. “There’s something about looking into people’s backyards that is almost more invasive. You are literally seeing their dirty laundry hanging out in the back; you’re not seeing what’s presented in the front.”

The actor hits upon a theme that readers of Hawkins’ work frequently note: The main character’s addiction adds a curious element to Rachel’s trustworthiness. “It’s not a thriller in the traditional sense,” says Theroux. “It’s seen through the lens of a human problem. No one believes the least reliable witness: Rachel.”

For the role of Scott, the second object of Rachel’s obsession, the filmmakers cast Luke Evans, who is known for roles in “The Hobbit” series, as well as the “Fast & Furious” franchise.

Evans admits he became quite the fan of the complex characters in Hawkins’ novel, one he found to be a gripping page-turner. “When I began the book, I didn’t want to put it down,” he gives. “I’m not surprised it’s done as well as it has. The whole story is about an inquisitive human being who creates chaos because of her curiosity, and it’s enthralling.”

The Welsh performer found Rachel’s obsessions fascinating, and he quickly agreed to portray one of the key figures who populate her world. He describes Scott as a man who’s in a tempestuous relationship with Megan (Haley Bennett), and a jealous husband who inevitably becomes a suspect when she disappears. “He’s questioning a lot about himself and about the women in his life, and how they’ve treated him,” the actor says. “So there’s a lot of anger and mistrust.”

Rachel’s need to find out what happened to Megan leads her to visit the missing woman’s psychiatrist, Dr. Kamal Abdic, whom Rachel—and the cops—suspects may have been involved in her disappearance. As the story unfolds, we learn that the relationship between Abdic and Megan was much more than doctor and patient. “There is this wonderful cat-and-mouse quality to what happens between Megan and her doctor,” says Bennett. “She is a lonely, broken woman who lures him in. He takes the bait.”

To play Dr. Abdic, the filmmakers cast Édgar Ramírez, known for his roles in such films as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Deliver Us from Evil.”

“Kamal Abdic is a man of few words,” offers Ramírez. “He loves to listen to these women because he is also fascinated, or a little turned on, by their despair. He listens to all their stories, but he genuinely falls in love with Megan. There’s a special sense of innocence in her, and he knows that she uses sex as a way to connect.”

Initially posing as a patient to learn what she can about Abdic, Rachel opens up to the doctor, revealing more than she ever intended. She describes her heartbreak at not being unable to have a child, subsequent divorce and alcohol-induced blackouts. “Abdic is the only one who listens to the secrets,” the Venezuelan actor adds. However, he pays the price for crossing the line with his patients. “He knows everything about what’s going on, and ironically, is the first one who becomes a suspect.” He pauses, “We cross lines because we feel lonely, and we are longing for connection.”

Opening across the Philippines on October 5, 2016, “The Girl on the Train” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.

Stiller, Wilson pose in Valentino shopping windows in Rome for Zoolander 2

ROME, January 31, 2016 – Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson continue boosting their career as supermodels.

The actors, who attended the premier of “Zoolander 2” in Rome on Saturday night, along with colleagues Will Ferrell and Justin Theroux, posed in the shopping windows of Valentino flagship on Sunday afternoon. The Roman-based fashion house collaborated with the movie’s costume designer Leesa Evans on a range of outfits for the comedy.
Stiller sported a military green suit embellished with butterflies, as well as a camouflage shirt, while Wilson opted for a more casual look, including beige pants, a lime green leather bomber jacket and a shirt showing a tropical pattern. He finished the look with black sunglasses and a grey beanie.

While Stiller struck mannequin-like poses, Wilson pulled moves inspired by martial arts comedy movies.

The duo already made an incursion in the fashion industry last March, when they hit the runway of the Valentino women’s fashion show at Paris Fashion Week as the film’s male supermodel characters.

Derek Zoolander and Hansel stun the fashion world with their live appearance in the display windows at Valentino Rome.
Derek Zoolander and Hansel stun the fashion world with their live appearance in the display windows at Valentino Rome.

In Paramount Pictures’ eagerly anticipated comedy sequel “Zoolander 2,” male models Derek (Stiller) and Hansel (Wilson) were enjoying the wonders of the `Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too,’ and Mugatu (Ferrell) was behind bars. An unforeseen catastrophe strikes the Center and forces the duo into seclusion, living off the grid. Fifteen age-defying years later we find a still shamed Derek and Hansel leading isolated, separate lives, shut-out from the rest of the world.

When each receives a special invitation to star in a major world fashion event in the ancient and mysterious city of Rome, they are unable to deny the allure of returning to their former glory and make their way back to civilization. Upon arrival, Derek and Hansel meet the bizarre and eccentric designers that are behind the new fashion empire. The two rapidly realize the fashion world they once knew has drastically changed, thrusting them awkwardly and literally back into the spotlight.

Derek Zoolander and Hansel stun the fashion world with their live appearance in the display windows at Valentino Rome.
Derek Zoolander and Hansel stun the fashion world with their live appearance in the display windows at Valentino Rome.

While they struggle to find relevance in this strange new world of blogging, vlogging, and anti-fashion fashion, they are recruited to help stop a calculated and deadly plot that if not stopped, would destroy forever the hopes for fashion to return to its revered and glorious status. Only Derek and Hansel have the power to SAVE FASHION.

Opening across the Philippines on February 24, 2016, “Zoolander 2” is distributed by United International Pictures through Columbia Pictures.