Comedy queen of the CIA

MOVE over Scarlett Johansson and Angelina Jolie, there could be a new female action star in tinsel town.

After winning audiences over with her acid tongue rants and expletive-laden insults in Bridesmaids and The Heat, comedy queen Melissa McCarthy has turned in her most physical performance.

In a pleasantly surprising twist, the jokester navigates action sequences with ease and often while looking stunning in gorgeous couture, showing a whole new side of herself.

CIA analyst Susan Cooper (Melissa McCarthy) who had big dreams for her career but ended up being desk-bound in a basement-like setting, finally gets the chance to work out in the field.

Without much support or confidence from her colleagues, particularly the scary, hard-edged Rick Ford (Jason Statham), Susan sets out to infiltrate arms dealer Raina Boyanov (Rose Byrne) for her dangerous first mission.

The first half-hour of Spy is strangely low-key, with material that prompts little more than the occasional chuckle.

Perhaps it was director Paul Feig�s plan to build the humour and excitement; if so, it is a risky move with barely enough laughs to make us want to stick with this.

However, once it hits its stride at about the mid-section, this is a barrel of laughs, with Susan coming out of her shell in a character arc that gives the shenanigans weight and McCarthy allowance to riff with her trademark howlers.

Though McCarthy is the star and she is privileged with one of her most rounded characters yet, her limelight is threatened by Byrne, who is proving herself to be a talented comedienne, after supporting roles in Get Him To The Greek and Bad Neighbours.

Feig punctuates the exciting action sequences with moments of icky, graphic violence that feel like they belong in an entirely different movie, a strange shift in tone at times.

If there is one thing the world needs it is a new female action hero and McCarthy is the perfect candidate.

Spy (MA)

Directed by: Paul Feig

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Rose Byrne, Jason Statham

Three and a half stars

Review by Julian Wright

In cinemas May 21