Review of The Heat, a 2013 Film Directed by Paul Feig of ‘Bridesmaids’ Fame, and Starring Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Marlon Wayans

Two women wearing sunglasses, one holding a rocket launcher. Image is stylized using only black and red and white.

The Heat (wikipedia)

GRADE: B / 50%   

Summary: Although worth watching once for Bullock and McCarthy, The Heat is a lukewarm buddy cop movie that works better when the cops actually solve the crime.

FBI agent Sarah Ashburn is a Miss Know-it-all who won’t forget to remind others (mostly male colleagues) that she’s better than them. Indeed, this goal-centric woman seems to be as methodical as a surgeon while solving crimes and her life is similar to that of a mountain climber – she wants to scale it right to the top, and all the  accolades, certificates and job promotions that come along are her perks. But she can’t handle a situation that’s completely beyond her control, and that’s when she panics and is unable to do anything other than what’s specified in the hundreds of books she’d digested as an undergrad student in Yale. Plus, her life’s like the icy mountain she’s climbing – very, very cold and pretty lonely at the top. She’s single and does not like to mingle; she won’t date co-workers, so poor Levy, a colleague with a massive crush on her, is left out. Her only buddy is a neighbours’ cat who hurriedly scampers back to her own home the instant Sarah lets go of her. She’s a difficult woman.

Officer Shannon Mullins, on the other hand, is a foul-mouthed tough cop who gives a middle finger to ‘methodology’ and finds her guide in intuition. She doesn’t go reminding people she’s better than them, but she doesn’t forget to tell them how miserable they are. She’ll put up a fight with anybody who doesn’t answer her or who interferes with her work, even if its an FBI agent. You must’ve got an idea by now what the movie’s going be about: it’s about two intelligent, strong and fearless but difficult women who are ordered to team up and bust a drug racket running in Mullin’s territory. And both women have to set their differences aside, and it ain’t that easy.

Sarah is disgusted to partner with this uncouth woman who would do as she pleases and won’t listen to a word Sarah says. She is bewildered that a ‘mentally unstable’ cop could still be allowed to protect people, and even tells her once or twice ‘not to be ashamed of her mental condition’. Shannon meanwhile scoffs at Sarah’s civility, calling her ‘Barbara Walters‘ when she begins interviewing a drug suspect, and also at her devotion to theoretical knowledge, which according to Shannon is no good in practice.

Both women have made tough choices in life: Sarah left her husband after he couldn’t cope with her career, and Shannon handed her brother to the cops after knowing he was involved in drugs. The two eventually learn to work together to solve the case, before a male Albino DEA and his partner are able to crack it.

Sandra Bullock plays FBI agent Sarah Ashburn in The Heat

In the latter half of The Heat, when an overpowered baddie asks Sarah and Shannon who they are, Sarah proclaims “We are ‘The Heat'”. The team name is never mentioned again. The title seems apt when you glance at the rocket launcher actress Melissa MCarthy is holding in the film’s poster (yeah, and both she and Sandra Bullock have a ‘Bring It On!’ look), plus you know there’s a lot of heat between Sarah and Mullins at first, but to me it seems ridiculous Sarah would christen her team with a name like ‘The Heat’ when I think I heard the word being used only one in the film in any context. And don’t wait for a scene where Melissa’s character Mullins blows up helicopters or something using her rocket launcher because the weapon is never used. What is used is a hand grenade, that too one that’s bought by Mullins on EBay, but it does work for the ladies at a crucial moment in this film.

What surprised me was the lack of weaponry used here, even though there’s a scene where Mullins shows Sarah an array of gun, grenades and launchers cloistered in the refrigerator in her messy apartment. Yet, the violence in The Heat remains pretty high, and the worst part doesn’t come from a Magnum or a shotgun but a little straw. A distasteful moment that’s funny but will make you go sour is when Sarah applies her unique technique of treating a guy who’s choking on food stuck in his windpipe; she calmly makes an incision in his neck, then injects a solution and finally inserts a straw into the opening. But the poor guy keeps choking and bleeding profusely, and Sarah finally panics and screams for ambulance. Mullins simply thumps him once on his chest and he coughs out the food; the guy is later hospitalised for severe bleeding. Try watching this particular scene while sipping your Coke with a straw!

Paul Feig‘s latest offering remains lukewarm until the two lead characters willingly work as a team post interval, and the film pays attention to the neglected case that was waiting for its turn to catch fire. Watching these two ladies bring in their own personalities to handle situations works better than watching them squabble with one another. Watching two ladies with opposite personalities bicker, bitch slap and cat-fight each other is fun for a while, but Sandra and McCarthy are evidently not that great at improvising. They often rely on awkward silences to evoke laughter; this is when a gag leads to an awkward silence where characters stare at one another or at the camera. A sigh is then heard – that’s us.

Many of the jokes aren’t inventive either. Plus, some go on for too long. Take the scene where Mullins refuses to let Sarah intervene in her case and takes the male police chief to task for being helpless. In a rampage Mike Tyson mode, she fires verbal shots by humiliating the chief in front of the entire police force – she asks loudly whether anyone has found his balls around somewhere and proceeds to give an unflattering description of the same. I did laugh, for a while I did, but McCarthy seemed to go on too long, and the camera doesn’t cut quickly enough to reaction shots of the humiliated chief and others.

Yet, you never get fatigued watching Bullock and McCarthy on screen and that alone makes The Heat worth watching once. This film serves the role of both a prequel and a sequel; the first half, with Mullins and Sarah adjusting to each other is like a prequel and the second, where the two ladies whoop butt, a sequel. The only thing this movie needs now is one more sequel, with maybe a guy joining the two ladies, and nothing more.




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