She’s a foul-mouthed cop and she’s an extraordinarily unlikable agent, but together they build a friendship that’s as unpredictable as a vintage grenade. Buddy cops are a dime a dozen so it can be difficult to make one feel fresh. Movies like Bon Cop Bad Cop choose an angle and frame the whole story to that theme. It doesn’t matter what the case is or who the mastermind is behind it, so long as our two heroes come out stronger in the end. In The Heat we get a feminist push from Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock, thanks to their characters’ unconventional techniques and the countless men they have to work with/arrest. The Heat finds its special place among the other buddy cop films thanks to one expired cheese sandwich, a fridge full of assault rifles, and a pair of Spanx.
Eager to prove herself worthy of a promotion, FBI agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) takes a case in Boston tracking down an overactive drug dealer. Happy to work alone, Ashburn follows her meticulous method and begins tailing suspects. It’s awkwardly unfortunate that her investigation pushes her in the way of Boston’s least favourite cop, detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). The train wreck known as Mullins is determined to work Ashburn’s case after spotting a connection to her brother and his recent prison sentence. Ashburn straightens her pantsuit and marches on, tapping into a deep Zen reserve every time Mullins blasts onto the scene like a bull in a china shop sporting armed assault rifles and a nasty cold. It takes minimal movie know-how to predict that their investigation will go from gong show, to compromise, to heroically breaking all the rules to save the day.
Defying tradition, Ashburn and Mullins’ unspoken comradery doesn’t build after one gets shot trying to save the other. In The Heat, understanding comes as it does in real life – over alcohol. It takes 24 hours in a dive bar for Mullins and Ashburn to find their groove but when they do, Boston’s crime community takes a serious hit. Mullins and Ashburn mow down an uncountable number of criminal associates in a single day, which is a staggering improvement to a week ago when they struggled to bring in one. It just goes to show that productivity and alcohol do mix, contrary to everything we learned in university.
Sandra Bullock dips into her comedy Rolodex in The Heat, playing the congenial stiff nobody likes until another outcast befriends her. She may not say nice things and her grey suits hardly invite warm hugs – but it’s still hard to imagine that nobody wants to be Sandra Bullock’s friend.
Mullins on the other hand… Melissa McCarthy is her usual charming self. She’s the perfect example of a crude, sharp, foul, destructive woman that everyone has good reason to avoid. Melissa McCarthy, off-camera, is actually a wonderful person, but you sure wouldn’t know it from her filmography. Playing the loud, profane, kind of smelly outsider is her niche. How did that happen? Ashburn’s button-up blazer may be an easy target for Mullins’ rage, but at least it channels her anger away from unsuspecting pedestrians.
As far as buddy cops go, The Heat ticks all the boxes. Two cops, disliked by both of their units, meet over a difficult case and find the friend they’ve always needed. It’s pretty predictable, but a few little moments like Ashburn discovering undercover dancing or our heroes making asses of themselves at the bar, save the movie from being totally forgettable. The Heat is pretty straightforward, but every now and then Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy let their actual friendship shine through and you wake up to a phonebook flying at your face.
In the mix you also get an uncomfortably loud Boston family and their love of Athlete Jesus paintings plus a misogynistic albino from the department you’ve never heard of. It’s a bit of a struggle sometimes to pull past the insults Mullins digs into the room, but when she calms down The Heat has its moments. If you liked Spy, you will like this. The Heat is a pretty basic 6/10.