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Review: The Heat

The Heat won't win any prizes for originality, but Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy impress in this slightly flimsy buddy cop comedy. James Tyas reviews.

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theheatDirector: Paul Feig
Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy
Length: 117 minutes
Rating:

In 2013, it doesn't feel like a mismatched buddy cop comedy in the mould of Lethal Weapon, with the only difference being that females take up the lead roles, should be applauded as a bold statement, but here we are. The Heat must be applauded in virtue of the fact that that, in the genre's thirty year history, this has inexplicably never been done before and, more generally, because the amount of films released this summer that would pass the Bechdel test is, more than likely, gallingly low.

But The Heat also deserves credit for how lightly its feminist credentials are worn: in the hands of a lesser director than Paul Feig you imagine the "Hey look, they're women!!!" aspect would have been played up to a far greater degree. A cynical attempt to cash in on the success of his previous feature Bridesmaids, this thankfully isn't. That said, The Heat never quite manages to straddle the comedic heights of its predecessor.

Melissa McCarthy assumes the role of Detective Mullins, a foul-mouthed, belligerent Boston cop who, unsurprisingly, plays by nobody's rules but her own. Many have been quick to point out the similarities between this and her loud and obnoxious performance in Bridesmaids. They may have a point, but this doesn't really matter as long as it's still funny which, for the most part, it is. The Heat does prove that Sandra Bullock's talents are wasted in Oscar-bait fare such as The Blind Side: comedy is where she is most at home. Bullock is perfect here as uptight, by-the-book FBI agent Ashburn, who is paired with Mullins to take down an elusive drug kingpin. Never attempting to compete with McCarthy's force of nature comic riffing, Bullock instead chooses to play off her and, in doing so, provides some of the film's subtler laughs.

In terms of originality, The Heat is nothing to write home about: all the hoary tropes and trite action beats are dutifully ticked off, drug dealer with a ropey Eastern European accent included. And the humour here is by no means sophisticated. Indeed, one of the biggest laughs comes when a criminal is apprehended by having a watermelon thrown at him. Still, over the course of its lengthy 117 minute running time, The Heat is consistently funny and occasionally very funny.

Paul Feig never makes any attempt, as The Other Guys did so successfully, to subvert or satirize the genre's numerous cliches but nor does he really need to. Good cop/ bad cop comedies live and die by the chemistry of their central pairings and McCarthy and Bullock duly deliver, backed up by Katie Dippold's sharp, well-honed script. These are The Heat's most valuable assets and Feig, canny enough to realise this, forgoes plot and emotional development to allow them space to shine.

The Heat, in its own clumsy, unambitious way, is something of an unlikely triumph. In a summer littered with the debris of any number of turgid, big-budget disasters, a film that sets out to do one thing and does it with competence and enthusiasm comes as a breath of fresh air.

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