I don't really care that director Paul Feig has made yet another female-centric (like his last film, BRIDESMAIDS), heavily R-rated (mostly for language) comedy. What I care about is that it made me laugh a great deal. If you've ever seen a male buddy-cop movie, you know the formula. Two law enforcement types (in this case one an under-appreciated FBI agent; the other a ragged Boston detective) are forced to work together, hate each other's style, but eventually learn to like the other's strengths, and they solve a crime.
In THE HEAT, Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) are forced together to break up drug empire, and the truth is the early scenes of them at odds aren't that funny, mainly because we've seen this setup a million times. But once they start working together and getting along, the movie improves exponentially. A particular highlight for me is when the pair end up at the Mullins' family home, where her thuggish brothers (including Michael Rapaport), their idiot girlfriends, and Jane Curtain as their mother (all with thick New England accents that would put the family in The Fighter to shame) pester Ashburn relentlessly.
An opening scene with Mullins busting a guy (Tony Hale) for soliciting prostitution and then grabbing up another guy for dealing drugs gives us a nice range of what makes McCarthy so endlessly funny. She's a gifted physical comedian as well as a master improviser. Compare her performance here to that mess she pulled in IDENTITY THIEF; it's easy to tell that she actually cared about being a part of THE HEAT. I couldn't really swear that Bullock is giving us a new and exciting persona, but watching Mullins corrupt her unflinching dedication to the letter of the law is really fun.
THE HEAT doesn't get overly cluttered with cameos and larger supporting roles, although it does feature some nice work from the likes of Demian Bichir as Ashburn's superior and Marlon Wayans as her co-worker. The film doesn't offer up much by way of surprises, but the chemistry between Bullock and McCarthy is the real deal, and it would be great to see them try something like this out again. Just to mix things up a bit, the film has a bit of gory violence in it (in a sort of PINEAPPLE EXPRESS fashion). Once scene that really threw me was one where Ashburn thinks she knows how to perform a tracheotomy on a choking man, and then does one, resulting in seemingly gallons of blood spurting out of the man's neck. If you can handle the Peckinpah-esque levels of gore, you'll be laughing heartily.
While I wouldn't say I was overly impressed with what Bullock brings to her role, which is a variation on the FBI agent she played in MISS CONGENIALITY, I liked hearing her curse, I won't lie. No one touches the expressive, explosive manner that McCarthy hurls the four-letter words. But Bullock doesn't hold back and seems to have a great deal of fun in a style of comedy that she hasn't really attempted up to now. Between this film and the fall sci-fi offering GRAVITY, Bullock is finally branching out and making us believe she deserves that Oscar (cheap shot, yes or no? Discuss).
THE HEAT had me laughing a lot, rolling my eyes only occasionally, and hating life almost never. That's a pretty solid equation in my book. It doesn't approach the amount of funny featured in last week's THIS IS THE END, but they're different films, so why compare them. They both features actors at the top of their comedy game, and you'll have a good time watching others explore their weaknesses. That's what cops do sometimes, but buddy cops do it all the time. I can't wait to see what Feig and his crew have in store the next time they get together for tea.