Let’s get this out of the way first. As a title, The Spy Who Dumped Me suggests a parody of The Spy Who Loved Me, one of Roger Moore’s outings as James Bond. However, those expectations are misplaced. The Spy Who Dumped Me has little to do with Ian Fleming’s creation or his cinematic representations. Instead, this film is about an ordinary woman whose ex is, well, a spy.
After being dumped by text, Audrey (Mila Kunis) becomes entangled in an international conspiracy after discovering that her ex, Drew (Justin Theroux), works for the CIA and is being hunted by terrorists. Alongside her best friend Morgan (Kate McKinnon), Audrey finds herself on the run from secret agents and high-fashion assassins as they travel from Los Angeles to Europe. The friends are out of their depth and must adapt to their dangerous new circumstances if they want to survive.
As a spy movie pastiche, The Spy Who Dumped Me is enjoyable but there are some surprising disappointments too. The biggest is that the script emphasises action over comedy. The film just isn’t as side-splittingly hilarious as might be expected. There are lots of jokes here and plenty of macabre slapstick. But, most of the comedy will only produce a faint smile and not fits of laughter from the audience.
As a result, the comedic skills of the leading duo of Mila Kunis and Kate McKinnon are severely underused. The engaging onscreen bond between the pair is the key driver of the plot as their friendship overshadows the weaker romantic subplot of Audrey’s relationship with Drew. Mila Kunis’s performance captures some of the uncertainty within Audrey after the break-up without allowing the character slip into melancholy. McKinnon’s work is scene-stealing and her performance is responsible for some of the film’s funnier moments.
While The Spy Who Dumped Me might be a pastiche in the same vein as the Austin Powers movies and the more recent Spy, it lacks those films’ playful subversion of the genre’s conventions. The opportunities for humour in the ‘fish out of water’ scenario of the women’s predicament is wasted by material that emphasises action over comedy while downplaying the absurdity of the situation. The familiar beats of a spy movie are hit here with the obligatory car chase, fight scenes and shootouts in restaurants.
Given the emphasis on the action, it’s a relief to say that it’s good. The set piece action sequences are solid, if not particularly inventive. The fight choreography is decent, especially in the pre-credits sequence. Drew could be Bond or Bourne in scenes that could have been culled from any recent action film. But, there’s very little added in terms of original fight choreography. In places, the fight sequences become extremely violent abruptly without signalling a change of tone.
By focusing the perspectives of Audrey and Morgan, director and co-writer Susanna Fogel has taken characters outside the world of spies as her starting point. However, any novelty is undermined by a weak and overly long third act where the film gets tangled up in its own repetitive and confusing subplots. The soundtrack features a selection of tracks from the 1980s and 1990s that play into pop culture’s nostalgia for the period. The costumes also allude to pop cultures with an assassin dressed as a steampunk Borg.
The Spy Who Dumped Me doesn’t do anything new with the conventions of the spy movie genre. It is an entertaining, if not very funny, action comedy.