Raking in some serious dough at this summer’s box office, Paul Feig’s follow-up to his equally lucrative mega-hit Bridesmaids (2011) once again takes that riotous comedy model and captures it from a distinctly female perspective. Using the traditionally masculine and male-dominated buddy cop movie as the basis this time round, the director has concocted another fun, if slight, comedy romp. Sandra Bullock is New York FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, a socially-stunted and smug overachiever in the field of law enforcement, not too dissimilar to Simon Pegg’s Sergeant Nicholas Angel in Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz (2007).
Ashburn is eager to be promoted for her sterling work and her boss promises a career boast if she can bring down a major drug lord whilst working alongside the local law enforcement in Boston. Reposted, she immediately locks horns with Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a belligerent, gratuitously potty-mouthed police officer she is partnered with on the assignment. Together, the mismatched pair is forced to put aside their differences to take down their dastardly target. The Heat is the kind of film which lives or dies on the strengths of its leads, and both Bullock and McCarthy make a strong duo, with the former displaying the kind of sharp comedic skills which have arguably been untapped in past offerings.
It’s McCarthy who gets the lion’s share of laughs, however, and while she may be riffing on her brash and vulgar Bridesmaids persona, this certainly isn’t a rehash of her work in Feig’s previous effort. There’s a real human underneath her non-nonsense, hard-faced exterior and she balances that with some winning moments (however fleeting) of vulnerability and openness. Feig and his writer Katie Dippold have fun playing with the genre archetypes. Mullins’ emasculated, long-suffering captain (played by Back to the Future’s Tom Wilson) is worlds away from the kind of shouty, short-fused superiors found in macho cinematic equivalents. The odd couple routine may have been done to death, but the two actresses manage to keep it fresh and appealing.
Bullock and McCarthy’s wonderful chemistry together is enough to make you turn a blind eye to the film’s limp, insubstantial plot, which seems like an afterthought. The male characters are very bland and one-note, too, although this could be a deliberate attempt to subvert the usual gender inequalities in films of a similar nature. If The Heat gets increasingly dafter as it goes along (and like Bridesmaids before it, the running time wouldn’t hurt with a nip and tuck here and there), Feig manages to keep the laughs rolling and more than adequately proves there is still much mileage left in this well-trodden sub-genre.
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