Turning up the heat
Bullock and McCarthy deliver as comic cop duo
Directed by Paul Feig
Starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy
The premise of The Heat is a simple one — an unlikely pair of detectives is forced to team up in order to take down a ring of dangerous drug dealers. With Sandra Bullock playing an FBI agent angling for a promotion, and Melissa McCarthy as a Boston police officer with anger management problems, The Heat begins to sound a little too much like Miss Congeniality 2 meets 21 Jump Street. But while the movie is predictable, it is far from stale — director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) steps back to let Bullock and McCarthy unroll their comedic chemistry.
Bullock and McCarthy, as the reluctant partners in law enforcement, foil each other perfectly. Each has her own idiosyncrasies: Sarah Ashburn (Bullock), desperate for a warm body to keep her company, “borrows” her neighbor’s cat from time to time; Mullins (McCarthy) uses an armory in her fridge to scare off neighbors who might otherwise try to break into her run-down apartment. And while they are both capable of catching criminals and closing cases, they also fall woefully short in the people-skills department: Ashburn is no nonsense and career driven to the point of arrogance; Mullins is a brash loose cannon who storms around firing streams of profanity-laced threats and verbal abuse at drug dealers and coworkers alike.
When Ashburn and Mullins meet, it’s good cop/bad cop at its finest. Clashes are inevitable, and one of the first occurs in the interrogation room. Ashburn sticks to her by-the-book questioning techniques, and when that avenue doesn’t look particularly fruitful, an exasperated Mullins uses her own tried-and-true methods: a Russian roulette-style, “I’m going to shoot you in the balls if you don’t start giving me some answers” interrogation. Plenty of other comedic interludes follow — including the power struggle that occurs when both women try to muscle their way through a door at the same time, each unwilling to withdraw and let the other go through first. When the physical clashes wind down and the two finally begin to get used to one another, they share a hilarious drunken night at a seedy bar.
The best part about The Heat is that it doesn’t try to be a buddy cop film with a generous helping of girl power on the side. It’s about two women in the gritty real world, and it’s far from glamorous. The closest The Heat gets to a makeover scene occurs during an undercover operation, when Mullins drags Ashburn into a nightclub bathroom to try to make her blend in with the clientele. Mullins takes scissors to Ashburn’s ill-fitting suit and old-lady button-up shirt, only to reveal a pair of Spanx. It’s a merciless reality check for Ashburn, as what little of her remaining dignity quickly disappears. “They hold everything together!” she says helplessly, in response to Mullins’ incredulous reaction. (Mullins, on the other hand, with her fingerless leather gloves and baggy sweatpants, states that she doesn’t need to change her outfit to blend in at the nightclub. She’s got moves.)
The Heat is unabashedly about extremes, and it delivers to the audience time and again. There’s that blood-spurting emergency tracheotomy that Ashburn unwisely tries to carry out, for one. And later on in the movie, there is a cringe-worthy scene involving an oyster-shucking knife stuck in Ashburn’s thigh. Supporting characters are also brilliant, with especially enjoyable performances from Mullins’ loud, slightly dysfunctional family.
If over-the-top action-comedy is what you’re after, then The Heat is a must-see movie of the summer. Bullock and McCarthy are in top form, and their romp through Boston provides the ideal ingredients for 117 minutes of escapism.