Spy Hard is a 1996 American spy comedy film parody starring Leslie Nielsen and Nicollette Sheridan, parodying James Bond movies and other action films. The introduction to the movie is sung by comedy artist "Weird Al" Yankovic. It was the first film to be written by Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. The film's title is a pun of Die Hard. The film was directed by Rick Friedberg and produced by Doug Draizin and Jeffrey Konvitz.
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Rick Friedberg|
|Produced by||Rick Friedberg|
|Written by||Rick Friedberg|
|Music by||Bill Conti|
|Cinematography||John R. Leonetti|
|Edited by||Eric Sears|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Box office||$26.9 million|
The film was released by Buena Vista Pictures on May 24, 1996, receiving generally negative reviews from critics. While many praised Nielsen's acting and its humor, most found the script, story and its direction disappointing. The film eventually grossed $26 million against a production budget of $18 million.
Secret agent WD-40 Dick Steele (Leslie Nielsen) has his work cut out for him. Along with the mysterious and lovely Veronique Ukrinsky, Agent 3.14 (Nicollette Sheridan), he must rescue the kidnapped Barbara Dahl and stop the evil genius, a General named Rancor (Andy Griffith), from seizing control of the entire world.
Rancor was wounded in an earlier encounter and no longer has arms. However, he can "arm" himself by attaching robotic limbs with various weapons attached. Steele is talked out of retirement by an old friend, agent Steven Bishop (Robert Guillaume), and given his new assignment by The Director (Charles Durning), who also is testing out a variety of elaborate disguises. At headquarters, Steele encounters an old agency nemesis, Norm Coleman (Barry Bostwick), and flirts with the Director's adoring secretary, referred to as Miss Cheevus (Marcia Gay Harden).
On the job, Steele is assisted by an agent named Kabul (John Ales), who gives him rides in a never-ending variety of specially designed cars. They seek help from McLuckey (Mason Gamble), a blond child left home alone, who is very good at fending off intruders. Steele resists the temptations of a dangerous woman (Talisa Soto) he finds waiting for him in bed. But he does work very closely with Agent 3.14, whose father, Professor Ukrinsky (Elya Baskin), is also being held captive by Rancor.
Everything comes to an explosive conclusion at the General's remote fortress, where Steele rescues both Barbara Dahl (Stephanie Romanov) and Miss Cheevus and launches a literally disarmed Rancor into outer space, saving mankind.
- Leslie Nielsen as Dick Steele, WD-40
- Nicollette Sheridan as Veronique Ukrinsky, Agent 3.14
- Charles Durning as The Director
- Marcia Gay Harden as Miss Cheevus
- Barry Bostwick as Norm Coleman
- John Ales as Kabul
- Andy Griffith as General Rancor
- Elya Baskin as Professor Ukrinsky
- Mason Gamble as McCluckey
- Carlos Lauchu as Slice
- Stephanie Romanov as Victoria and Barbara Dahl
- Joyce Brothers as Steele's Tag Team Member
- Ray Charles as Bus Driver
- Hulk Hogan as Dick's tag-team partner
- Roger Clinton as Agent Clinton
- Robert Culp as Businessman
- Fabio Lanzoni as Himself
- Robert Guillaume as Steven Bishop
- Pat Morita as Brian the Waiter
- Talisa Soto as Desiree More
- Mr. T as a helicopter pilot
- Alex Trebek as Agency Tape Recorder (voice)
- Taylor Negron as Painter
- Clyde Kusatsu as Noggin
- Curtis Armstrong as Pastry chef
- Tina Arning as Dancer #1
- William Barillaro as Blind Driver
- Michael Berryman as the man with the oxygen mask
- Downtown Julie Brown as Cigarette Girl
- Stephen Burrows as Agent Burrows
- Keith Campbell as Thug #2
- Carl Ciarfalio as Thug #1
- Brad Grunberg as Postal Worker
- Wayne Cotter as Male Dancer
- Rick Cramer as Heimlich, Rancor Terrorist
- Eddie Deezen as Rancor guard that gets spit on
- Joey Dente as Goombah, Dead Wise Guy
- Paul Eliopoulos as Agent #1
- Andrew Christian English as Paratrooper
- Johnny G as Agent #2
- Loren & Ginger Janes as couple in elevator (reprising their identical role from True Lies)
- Michael Lee Gogin (Brad Garrett, voice) as Short Rancor guard
- Bruce Gray as The President
- John Kassir as Rancor guard at intercom
- Sally Stevens as Vocal conductor/singer
- Thuy Trang as a Hawaiian-dressed waitress
- "Weird Al" Yankovic as Himself in title sequence
- Larry Walsh as Musician
- Rawle D. Lewis as Boatman #1
- Angela Visser as Georgeous Blonde
"Weird Al" Yankovic sings the title song and directed the title sequence. It is a parody of title sequences from the James Bond films designed by Maurice Binder, specifically 1965's Thunderball, complete with multiple colored backgrounds, silhouetted figures, women dancing with guns, and "wavy" text. Additionally, an urban legend states that during the recording of the theme to Thunderball, Tom Jones held the song's final note long enough to pass out. Yankovic holds it so long that his head explodes. Originally, Yankovic had planned to loop the note to the required length, but in the studio, he discovered he was able to hold the note long enough that no looping was required. The sequence was later included on "Weird Al" Yankovic: The Ultimate Video Collection, although, for legal reasons, all credits and titles had to be taken out, excluding that of the film and of Yankovic himself.
James Berardinelli of ReelViews wrote: "Director Rick Friedberg [...] has crafted a dreadfully unfunny comedy that takes Naked Gun-like sketches and rehashes them without a whit of style or energy. ... For movie-after-movie, Leslie Nielsen has milked this same personality, and it's starting to wear very thin. As affable as the actor is, there's just nothing left in this caricature. However, while Spy Hard might have worked better with, say, Roger Moore in the title role (his 007 was a parody towards the end, anyway), Nielsen's performance is only a small part of a massively-flawed production. Hard is the operative word here, because, even at just eighty-one minutes, this movie is unbelievably difficult to sit through."
Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote: "Spy Hard is never funnier than during its opening credit sequence in which "Weird Al" Yankovic bellows his parody of the brassy theme song from Goldfinger, while obese cartoon silhouettes swim across the screen. ... Instead of building sustained comic set pieces, it takes a machine-gun approach to humor. Without looking at where it's aiming, it opens fire and sprays comic bullets in all directions, trusting that a few will hit the bull's-eye. A few do, but many more don't. ... Around the halfway point, Spy Hard begins to run out of ideas and becomes a series of crude, rambunctious parodies of other films. ... When Spy Hard abruptly ends after only 81 minutes, you sense that it has used up every last round of available ammunition. It was simply exhausted and couldn't move another inch."
Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "It's done in the style of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker Naked Gun series, but although the style is there, the jokes aren't. Spy Hard relies on silly slapstick, takeoffs of recent films and the shock effect of celebrity cameos. But all that exertion doesn't add up to more than a handful of laughs. ... The story is too weak to work even as a clothesline for gags. Spy Hard eschews a coherent story and instead just strings together movie takeoffs. ... Nielsen, with his expert deadpan and sense of comic timing, creates the illusion of humor – for about 15 minutes. Thanks to him, what could have been an unbearable experience becomes merely empty. Still, he can't work miracles, and nothing short of a miracle could have made Spy Hard worth seeing."
Stephen Hunter of The Baltimore Sun gave the film a negative review, writing that the film is "more of a parody of a parody than a parody" and in particular criticizing director Rick Friedberg, asking, "[w]as this poor guy ever funny?"
Marcia Gay Harden wasn't a fan of the film itself as well:
Ugh. I hated doing that movie. [Laughs.] It was, I thought, going to be an opportunity to have a lot of fun, but it was just chaos and, uh, not so much fun. And not so funny. I mean, Leslie [Nielsen] was great, but it was really his show, and it was just… very chaotic. Behind schedule, over budget. People mention her to me, but I’ve never really seen the movie. All I know is that she was supposed to be sexy, and I don’t know if she even was.
- Yankovic, Weird Al. "Ask Al". "Weird Al" Yankovic. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- "Spy Hard". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- "Spy Hard". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- Berardinelli, James (1996). "Review: Spy Hard". reelviews.net. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- Holden, Stephen (May 24, 1996). "FILM REVIEW;That's Agent 007? No, It Must Be 000". The New York Times. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- LaSalle, Mick (June 23, 2011). "'Spy' Hard Up For Jokes / Nielsen vehicle has no wheels". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved October 13, 2011.
- Hunter, Stephen (May 24, 1996). "'Spy Hard' is no 'Airplane' Review: Spy-thriller spoof has Leslie Nielsen, but it lacks the rapid-fire gags we have come to expect". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
- Harris, Will (October 11, 2012). "Marcia Gay Harden on her favorite character and working with Clint Eastwood". The A.V. Club. Retrieved March 27, 2019.