The Heat review

The Heat (Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy)(3)

The Heat is a strange blend. Directed by Paul Feig of Bridesmaids, he takes the formula of those popular 1980s buddy cop movies (incorporating elements from the likes of 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon and even Feds) and layers it with a musical score by Mike Andrews, who appears to be channelling the soundtrack of a blaxploitation film from the 1970s. Then there’s the similarity to the TV series 21 Jump Street which The Heat makes reference to; though it has much more in common with the recently filmed remake given the level of humour on offer and the absurdity of the lead characters delivering it. 

The Heat (Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy and Fridge)(4)FBI Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is looking for a promotion. Her boss puts her on a case to track down a drug lord in Boston, who goes by the name of Larkin. Once there Ashburn gets straight down to interrogating a suspect. She then comes face-to-face with the person that brought him in – Detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a hard-edged, foul-mouthed cop who keeps all her weapons and ammo in her fridge (who knows where she keeps her actual food). Realising that they might be able to use their respective skills to help each other, they end up working together to track down Larkin.

Written by Katie Dippold (who also has a cameo in the film as a nurse), she’s crafted two great lead characters that are both uniquely smart and stupid, with Bullock and McCarthy slotting neatly into their roles. Unfortunately Dippold has placed these characters in a story that’s come straight from the recycle bin. The substandard set-up of chasing drug dealers is rather convoluted as Ashburn and Mullins jump from numerous locations and suspects to the next, all thanks to the flimsiest of leads. We don’t even find out who the real villain is until the final few minutes. Instead, the focus is more on Ashburn and Mullins, generating frequent laughs from their own methods of handling situations as well as each other.

The film does not really get going until half an hour in, when both Ashburn and Mullins agree to work together. Bullock mostly plays it straight, but does get a few comedic highlights as Ashburn slowly learns to loosen up. Her way of sticking up for Mullins in a room full of FBI agents is as uplifting as it is cringeworthy. However, a scene where she ‘tries’ to help a man that is choking comes across as a hasty inclusion just to highlight how she does not know everything.

The Heat is pretty much McCarthy’s show; though as good an actress as she is, it could be argued that she’s playing the same character we’ve seen before in movies such as Identity Thief, only this time she has a badge. She can’t be faulted however on the delivery of her often profanity littered improv, but a few too many jokes about sex and genitalia might not sit well with some (“How many porns have been made on this couch?” says Mullins when visiting a suspect). It’s interesting that Feig allows McCarthy’s Mullins to get her way in almost every situation, to the point where she’s undermining her superior, Captain Woods (Tom Wilson), who’s afraid to stand up to her.

Feig certainly does not want you to think too much during The Heat, for doing so will highlight some issues. One humorous scene at a dance club has Ashburn and Mullins go to great lengths to bug a suspect’s mobile phone, but it serves little purpose to the overall plot, for at no point do we see them listening in to any of his calls. Also Mullins’ brother Jason (Michael Rapaport – more a plot motivator than a fully fledged character here) somehow knows Ashburn’s mobile number.

The Heat (Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock and Marlon Wayans)Soon Ashburn and Mullins are pointing their guns at bad guys, DEA agents and nurses. Given the few instances when those guns are also pointed at the crotch of men, it would seem that The Heat wants the audience to know that the duo of Ashburn and Mullins are taking over this male-dominated sub-genre. We even get the expected tooling up with weapons montage sequence; but it’s a bit of a letdown when the film fails to include a shootout. In fact, The Heat is not as action packed as the trailers would have you believe. There is the obligatory explosion (hell, there’s two of them), but guns are rarely fired here. Despite this there are a few gory moments that Feig surprisingly does not shy away from, even managing to make a wince inducing moment of torture humorous.

We’ve obviously seen this kind of thing before, it’s just that the buddy cop formula has rarely been injected with this much estrogen. Not that it ruins the formula by any means, but the story has all the complexity of an episode of Scooby-Doo and is merely an excuse to hang a series of humorous set-pieces on. Thankfully it helps that most of the jokes hit their mark. The Heat might not add anything new, but it does deliver laughs.

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