THE RHYTHM SECTION

Cert 15 Stars 2

When people say they want a female James Bond, presumably this flat and action-light espionage revenge thriller, produced by Bond supremos, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson on a considerably lower budget than 007 enjoys.

Out has gone the gloss, glamour, gadgets and humour, with the globetrotting reduced to Western Europe, New York and Morocco, with buses being the principal form of transport.

As a drug addict prostitute turned assassin, US star Blake Lively is denied the opportunity to play to her strengths, who cleans up to kill the people responsible for the deaths of her family in a terrorist bombing.

She previously demonstrated her authority, charisma and physical prowess in thrillers The Shallows, and, A Simple Favour, but she’s never given the opportunity to be glamorous, and is possibly hampered by having to adopt a pretty decent British accent.

A random choice of classic rock tunes are dropped in by an editor desperate to pep up the somber mood. I suspect the producers don’t expect any great box office, and the film’s delayed release forms part of the marketing strategy for April’s upcoming 007 adventure, No Time To Die.

Spy

Director: Paul Feig (2015)

The world of espionage will never be the same after this enjoyable action caper smears poo and puke jokes over the glossy veneer of a James Bond parody.

As one-time 007 star George Lazenby once put it: ‘this never happened to the other fella‘.

Following the hugely successful Kingsman (2015), it’s the second Bond inspired movie of 2015. In October we’ll see Spectre, Daniel Craig’s last roll of the dice as the British spy.

It offers big budget foul-mouthed laughs though the blunt-edged comedy of leading lady Melissa McCarthy are more likely to dislocate your funny bone that tickle it.

It’s the third time after Bridesmaids (2011) and The Heat (2013) she’s teamed with writer/director Paul Feig but this time the result is less successful.

A nuclear bomb in a suitcase is being touted around the bad guys of Europe.

With key agents incapacitated the CIA are forced to send clumsy back-room computer operative Susan Cooper (McCarthy) undercover.

She is so unsuited to fieldwork she faints at the sight of blood and must fight not only heavily-armed bad guys – but her own inexperience and insecurity.

Decorated with the typical Bond furniture of casinos, helicopters, fast cars and gadgets, the plot moves briskly through the familiar locations of Paris, Rome and Budapest.

As Theodore Shapiro’s music reaches a satisfactory Bond-esque pitch, the action is technically well executed.

However it’s handled leniently by the editor; one explosion is seen from at least seven different camera angles.

If this is intended to be exaggeration for comic effect such as mastered by Paul Verhoeven in Robocop (1987) and John Landis in The Blues Brothers (1980), it’s insufficiently developed.

More likely it’s aping the current trend in editing for repeating the same shot from different angles to exploit the budget for maximum onscreen effect.

Either way it slows the pace and contributes to the generous running time. This lack of ruthlessness in the edit is a big problem and Spy keeps repeating it.

The unnecessary appearance of rapper 50 Cent is another example, as is the weary repetition of an excellent joke about the consequences of having an Operations room in a basement.

There’s a great knife in a kitchen with glamorous assassin Lia (Nargis Fakhri) where comedy and action combine instead of competing – the film would be much improved with more scenes like it.

Jude Law’s champagne swilling tuxedo’d super-spy Bradley Fine offers a glimpse of a James Bond we’ll never have.

The British star is happy to send himself up as the vainest man on the planet but labours under an American accent and a script offering him few decent lines.

Fortunately Jason Statham and Peter Serafinowicz abseil in with expertly calibrated comic performances and rescue the Americans from a mire of directorial appeasement.

Their deranged performances steal their every scene. Rick Ford (Statham) is a barking mad rogue agent while Aldo (Serafinowicz) is an undercover Italian operative with unsuppressed passions.

It’s fair enough the men are vain idiots and the women do the actual work – but Spy seems overly-pleased with itself for this reversal and the result is more indulgence.

Miranda Hart riffs on her TV persona as Cooper’s dowdy sex-starved colleague Nancy B. Artingstall. She’s a not-so best friend who’s happy to embarrass Cooper in front of glamorous agent Karen Walker (Morena Baccarin in not much more than a cameo).

As criminal mastermind Rayna Boynaov, Aussie actress Rose Byrne dresses up in a cut-glass accent and trashy outfits and commendably commits herself to ridicule in a broad performance.

McCarthy’s a fine and engaging actress who capably charts the journey from put upon underling to confident ass-kicker. But her ad libbing is rarely as funny as the film thinks it is.

A running joke sees McCarthy in a variety of terrible outfits and looking at one point not unlike Dawn French in the Vicar Of Dibley. One or two inspired lines aside, she’s also about as funny.

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director: Wes Anderson (2014)

Let Ralph Fiennes lead you through the lobby for a romp around the rooms of this funny and sweet comic caper.

With typically deft and deliberate sweeps of his camera, director Anderson sculpts a sweet trifle and by virtue of keeping the screen-time of his regular actors Bill Murray and Owen Wilson to an absolute minimum, he’s created his best and funniest confection yet.

In the fictional middle-European country of Zubrowka, The Writer (Jude Law) is staying in the once opulent but now rundown hotel where he meets the aged Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham).

The Writer is regaled with the tale of how as young man, Zero came under the tutelage of the now legendary hotelier Gustave H (Fiennes) and so eventually became the owner of the establishment.

Known more for his intensity of his dramatic performances, uber-thesp Fiennes shows his flair for comic charm as Gustave H – a velvet-tongued concierge and romantic adventurer with a fondness for seducing the blonde, rich, vulnerable old ladies who frequented his hotel.

We see Gustave parade through the lobby issuing a multitude of instruction, insistent on respecting the correct manner in which everything must be done. Perpetually purple-clad and poetry quoting, even his perfume is called Panache.

Young Zero is played by Tony Revolori, he and Fiennes make an unlikely but lovely double act with Gustave showering his protege with advice, not least concerning the pastry girl (an excellent Saoirse Ronan) Zero has fallen is love with.

Gustave is bequeathed a very valuable painting, Boy with Apple by Madame D (Tilda Swinton). Her family whom hoped to inherit it are outraged.

Doors are opened, windows peered through and corridors ran down as Gustave and Zero are pursued by a villainous leather-clad investigator J.G. Jopling (Willem Dafoe).

What follows is unexpected violence, an alpine chase, punch ups, murders, an interrupted game of cards, a secret society of concierges and a most unfortunate cat.

Like the hotel of the title this immaculate pink and white wedding cake of a creation is textured, rich and slightly nutty – though it may be something of an acquired taste.

 ★★★★