The Heat proves two things: the ‘buddy cop’ genre actually survived Kevin Smith’s Copout and Melissa McCarthy can produce laughs like no one else in the business! Normally, when a film’s release date is delayed by a studio, it is a bad thing. However, when 20th Century Fox moved the release of The Heat from an April release to a June release, it is clear they knew they had a hit on their hands that could measure up against the big summer blockbusters.
The basic story involves an uptight FBI agent being paired up with a course Boston police officer in order to take down a drug lord. Nothing spectacular plot-wise. Thus, the golden rule for buddy cop movies is “do something to make it better than the last one.” There are literally thousands of films that use the odd couple cop partnership blueprint, so the only way to ensure success is to continually add improvements. It goes without saying that hyper-focused “by the book” FBI agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and passionate yet “devil may care” detective Mullins (McCarthy) will eventually overcome their initial confrontation and become an effective team. Thus, to overcome the clichés inherent in the genre, director Paul Feig capitalized on Katie Dippold’s screenplay by emphasizing the episodic storyline and injecting a bit of dark humor, which also allowed his previous film, Bridesmaids, to work so well.
The film opens by introducing Bullock’s character as one who does a good job, but with an arrogance that alienates everyone she works with. Thus, when an opportunity for a promotion arrives, she takes a job where she will work along side the Boston police department and prove to her superiors that she can work well with others. What she clearly was not expecting is that she would be partnered up with her foil: a foul-mouthed, uncivilized cop, who while rude and vulgar, is also great at her job. This pairing allows Feig to guide his perfectly casted characters through a series of hilarious episodes where two good cops try to understand why the other’s methods work. Where Ashburn sucks up to her boss for fulfillment, Mullins bullies and ridicules hers for the very same reason in one of the film’s funniest scenes. Recollections of Charles Grodin and Robert DeNiro in Midnight Run or Eddie Murphy, Judge Reinhold, and John Ashton in Beverly Hills Cop are hard to deny, but never blatantly ripped-off.
As mentioned earlier, The Heat strives for being more than a series of gags like McCarthy’s earlier 2013 effort, The Identity Thief. The Heat is far more violent and crude than some may expect. However, considering the golden rule, why shouldn’t it be? We’ve already seen Miss Congeniality where Sandra Bullock learns how to let her hair down. Now it’s time for her to raid a hidden arsenal in a refrigerator, suit up, and crack some skulls. The real element of danger, violence, and peril allows the film to outlast its premise not unlike This is the End from earlier this summer where the film’s balance of comedy and disaster made it that much better. It’s fun to see films mix genres, and this is no exception. The film moves swiftly and has plenty of strong laughs as well as cringe worthy thrills that may even make you avert your eyes.
If there’s anything to criticize here, it is that these female characters basically resemble the classic unpolished lifestyles of a million other male counterparts. The film could have elevated the female buddy cop genre by giving them more girl-power. An opportunity is missed by downplaying the relationship between Ashburn and her FBI contact, Levy (Marlon Wayans), and Mullins’s romantic life is played off as one big joke because of course, how can such a big woman have a real love life? Feig was much more successful at developing the relationships among women in Bridesmaids than he is here. Nonetheless, the film is not offensive towards women and is still very funny. B+
The Heat is rated R and has the surprisingly long running time of 1 hour and 57 minutes. However, it never feels overly long or dull.