Rated R for language, strong crude content and some violence
Written by Katie Dippold
Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Marlon Wayons, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin and more.
One day, Hollywood will figure out how to make an engaging, tightly-plotted action movie with women in the lead roles.
Sadly, that day is not today.
Though it does offer some laughs and a pair of well-known actresses as its stars, “The Heat” consistently fails to deliver as a buddy cop movie. The partnership is unbalanced, the characters are even more clichéd than is the norm for the genre, and the script too often resorts to humiliating Bullock’s character instead of making her interesting. This is no “Lethal Weapon,” no matter how much it wants to be.
The plot follows the basic buddy cop movie formula, pairing an arrogant, by-the-book FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) with a reckless, rule-breaking street cop (Melissa McCarthy). They’re forced to work together on a case, and in a good movie they would learn from each other and grow as human beings while they were busy shooting at the bad guys.
Here, though, the script and director seems to already consider McCarthy’s character an ideal cop, even though she’s extreme enough to qualify as a parody of the reckless cop stereotype. She emotionally abuses her captain to the point that she should probably be both fired and sued, and her personal hygiene and bathroom behavior are pulled from the last decade or so of redneck jokes. Even worse, from a narrative standpoint at least, is the fact that neither she nor the screenwriters are willing to entertain the possibility that she might ever be wrong about anything. Frankly, watching someone be right all the time is boring.
It’s also boring to watch someone be wrong all the time. Bullock’s character makes all the concessions in the partnership, and the center section of the movie is pretty much nothing more than her character getting things wrong over and over again. Yes, the stuffy character needs to have the starch shaken out of them, but all “The Heat” seems to be trying to do is making the character look pathetic. If you don’t believe me, they also made her a former foster kid (never adopted, naturally) and had her steal a neighbor’s cat so she had someone to cuddle.
You can feel the damage this imbalance does all the way through the movie. At the beginning, it drains the interest out of their antagonistic snapping – a fight is never as fun to watch when the same person always loses. At the end, it makes their friendship feel cheap.
Both actresses do what they can to overcome the lack in the script. Bullock has a gift for physical comedy, making a scene where she has to drag herself around a hospital funnier than it has any right to be. McCarthy is hilarious, and I delighted in every scene where she rejected men she’d previously slept with who kept trying to get back together with her. Between them, they made the obligatory “let’s get depressed and completely drunk” scene totally delightful.
The movie as a whole, however, was not. At best, it’s a flawed beginning to the glorious action-girl future I dream of.