Film review: The Heat

posted at 9:31 am on June 30, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

When the FBI needs to go to Boston in order to take down a mysterious drug lord, they send their best agent to deal with the case … mainly because no one can stand having uptight Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) around.  That makes her a perfect match for profane Boston detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy).  Neither woman is interested in a partnership, but it doesn’t take long before both realize that the only way to solve the case is to team together.  Can they find the mysterious “Larkin” before the drug lord finds Mullins’ family?

A friend of mine and I play “What’s the Pitch?” when we go to the movies, in which we try to guess the way the script got pitched to the studio.  The Heat’s pitch line had to be “Bridesmaids meets Bad Boys.”  Paul Feig, who helmed Bridesmaids, brings Melissa McCarthy’s aggressive-controlling character along for a buddy/cop formula ride.  Bullock teams up with McCarthy in a role that one could easily imagine Kristen Wiig filling.

Amazingly, even though one can almost see the buddy/cop/fish-out-of-water genre checkboxes being marked off as the film proceeds, The Heat actually works, both as an action film and a comedy, mostly because of the skill of McCarthy and Bullock in creating characters that connect with viewers.  The film almost entirely rests on their shoulders, even though The Heat has an enviable cast.  The lack of use of Jane Curtin would be almost criminal in any other film, and Thomas F. Wilson (Biff from Back to the Future and Coach from Freaks and Geeks) makes the most of just a couple of good scenes. Marlon Wayans has more screen time, but just as a straight man and a romance interest.  Michael Rapaport (Prison Break, The Baytown Outlaws) provides most of the support as McCarthy’s ne’er-do-well brother Jason.

Bullock and McCarthy succeed in keeping the interest and the laughs going, which makes The Heat a lot like the other films in the male-dominated genre.  The actual plot doesn’t make a lot of difference, and it’s often confusing, although it has a couple of good twists for the audience. The plot and the action take a back seat to characterization and humor, which makes the graphic and realistic violence that pops up a few times more shocking — almost yanking viewers out of the story, especially one execution scene.

It’s fun and surprisingly intelligent, considering the genre, although a bit uneven in the first half of the film.  Like McCarthy’s persona in The Heat and Bridesmaids, it grows on you.  It’s not going to win awards for cinematic art, but it’s going to make you laugh out loud, sit on the edge of your seat, and care about what happens to the main characters.  That’s not bad for a formula buddy picture, and there are far worse ways to pass an evening.

On the 5-point Hot Air scale, I give this a 4:

  • 5 – Full price ticket
  • 4 – Matinee only
  • 3 – Wait for Blu-Ray/DVD/PPV rental or purchase
  • 2 – Watch it when it hits Netflix/cable
  • 1 – Avoid at all costs

If you’re a big fan of Bullock or McCarthy, that may make it a 5.  It’s a fun movie, and worth seeing at the theater, but you may want to buy the discount ticket.

The Heat is rated R for graphic violence, crude content, and “pervasive language.” It’s not for kids or young teens at all.

Note: If you stick around for the credits, check out the second listing for Jessica Chaffin, which I didn’t notice until I looked up the IMDB page for the film.


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