Despite its lazy title and sitcom premise, The Heat shimmers with the lucrative gloss of a hit franchise.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
This female buddy-cop pic is composed almost entirely of insults and one-liners, but it has enough irresistible star power to generate fresh installments for another decade. (20th Century Fox has already greenlit a sequel.)
The film gives Oscar winner Sandra Bullock her funniest role in forever and lets co-star Melissa McCarthy unleash her abrasive shtick with glee. Its not much of a movie too many spare scenes keep the plot from moving forward, distending an already bloated two-hour running time but its a fun ride bolstered by an anything goes edge.
FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is told by her supervisor (Demian Bichir) he has heard complaints of your arrogance, showmanship and competitiveness. Sure, shes a fine agent, but shes the type of uptight loner whose home is filled with pictures of her snuggling a cat her neighbors cat.
To prove to the bureau shes ready for a promotion, the New Yorker gets shipped to Boston to help sort out a federal narcotics investigation. Shes ordered to partner with local Detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy), a true Bruin in a china shop. Foul-mouthed, unkempt and brutal, Mullins is best described by one of her arrests: You look like one of the Campbells Soup twins who grew up and became an alcoholic.
Both women are effective at their jobs, and both are ill-equipped to work together. Yet as they inch closer to a mysterious drug lord, they are forced to rely on each others methods for success.
Bridesmaids director Paul Feig appears to be the perfect choice for this action-tinged comedy, which attempts to extract the same R-rated hilarity from a female-led cast. He certainly gets dynamic performances from his two mismatched stars, allowing them all kinds of room for improvisation, which is both hit and miss. (Its easy to tell when McCarthy veers off-script because she starts leaning on profanity.)
Doesnt hurt that Feig populates his latest with familiar faces from Bridesmaids and from his seminal TV series Freaks and Geeks, and hes rather generous with the supporting roles. Some of the best lines get spread out to bit players. (Dan Bakkedahl is a scream as a surly albino DEA agent.)
But the script by rookie screenwriter Katie Dippold doesnt capture the heart or poignancy in those previous Feig projects. Both dealt with likable people doing all they can to avoid failure. The women in The Heat are unlikable people who are quite successful at what they do. Different dynamic.
The film is better at deconstructing the cliches of the cop flick, such as when Ashburn and Mullins dangle a suspect from a high railing to strong-arm a confession, only to realize they dont have the arm strength to pull him back up.
No doubt the movie was pitched as an homage (possibly a parody) to the Cagney & Lacey-style pairings of the 1980s. But the film suffers from the same narrative limitations and inevitable conclusions, whether its making fun of them or not.
Luckily, Bullock and McCarthy will enjoy plenty more Heat adventures where they can perfect this formula.