The Heat •••Posted: June 30, 2013
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)
It’s summer time, Greg, and that means it’s time to experience The Heat.
True enough. It also means we no longer have to look at the ubiquitous trailer.
Exactly. The film introduces us to FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock), who is highly competent but also a giant pain in the backside to her colleagues. Ashburn is driven to be promoted but is told by her boss (Demian Bichir) that her promotion depends on her capturing a Russian drug lord operating in Boston. When she arrives in Boston, she interrogates one of the drug lord’s underlings but severely clashes with a Boston cop, Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who had captured him earlier.
Mullins, it turns out, has problems with her family who are peeved at her for locking up her own brother – to keep him off the streets. Ashburn is so by-the-book and self-centered that she not only won’t ask for help, but doesn’t even know when she needs it. Before you know it this odd couple must work together to expose and diffuse crime lord Larkin before Mullins’ brother is killed.
Greg, thanks to this film’s annoying trailer, I had very low expectations for both this film and for Melissa McCarthy. In the trailer, McCarthy’s character, Mullins, comes across a vulgar bully with a penchant for throwing out very unfunny one-liners. In the movie, we do see this side of Mullins but thankfully we also see much more, and it is good.
The Heat won me over with two excellent performances by Bullock and McCarthy and with a storyline that very effectively mixes humor with a tale about a wonderful, developing friendship. The film starts out with two extremely contrasting personalities that butt heads repeatedly, and these differences cause each woman to underestimate and misunderstand the other. They soon earn each other’s respect and develop a heartfelt sisterly love for each other.
I think I saw a different picture, Scott. Bullock has played this role before in 2000’s Miss Congeniality. But that was an excellent film full of wit and with something to say. The Heat gives Bullock nothing to work with except a very basic outline of a character which, to her credit, she works as far as she can.
McCarthy was a pleasant surprise. She starts out as a “bull in china shop” but in several places displays a range of emotion that impressed me. She becomes protective of her younger brother. She’s the dutiful daughter. She’s Bullock’s mentor to the world of Boston’s back streets. All credit goes to Ms. McCarthy, however, and not the screenwriter who filled her mouth with a stream of filth. The dialog and situations weren’t all that interesting and we’re left to sit idly by as we watch her hard at work to create a silk purse from a sow’s ear.
Sow’s ear? Greg, you underestimate how uncommon it is to see two women play buddy cops in the movies. Bullock and McCarthy enter rare territory for women, a unique opportunity, and they hit a grand slam. Bullock’s character, Ashburn, is the central hero in the film, and we witness her character undergo considerable growth. She starts out completely friendless and unable to connect with people, and this social ineptness is holding her back professionally. Mullins mentors her, loosens her up, and helps her realize her full potential. Beneath all the hilarity, this is a rather cool hero journey.
We’re agreed on the talents of these fine actors. But the story was a classic buddy cop plot. One cop a straight shooter, the other a mess. There are no surprises here. In fact, I dare say that there was not much that made this film different from any male-based buddy cop film – except for the “spanks” scene we saw in the trailers.
Almost everything was predictable. We know there has to be a mole in the department. The only question was which of the annoying DEA agents would it be? We know that the boss has to constantly be on Agent Ashburn’s back. We know that there has to be a bonding moment where the two misfits share their innermost foibles. Everything played out like clockwork. I almost didn’t have to be there to witness it. Heck, the plot is so well-known that in improv circles we have a game called “Buddy Cop” where we create such a show in real time. There was nothing original here.
I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree, Greg. I didn’t find the story to be overly predictable at all. I found myself chuckling at the jokes throughout this movie, and I thoroughly enjoyed watching two great women actors showcase their talents.
The Heat is an extremely funny and enjoyable film about two unlikely friends who help each other grow and evolve as both human beings and law enforcement officers. There are far too many F-bombs in this movie for my tastes, and at times McCarthy’s character’s outrageous behavior exceeds the bounds of credibility, but overall this is one of the best female buddy cop movies ever made. I award The Heat 4 Reels out of 5. Both heroes underwent a meaningful life-changing transformation, especially the character of Ashburn, and for that I award the film 4 Heroes out of 5 as well.
As you wish, Scott. I was bored and spent most of my time rolling my eyes at lame attempts at humor. I recommend viewers spend their money renting an old Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, or Miss Congeniality DVD. For a hackneyed plot that offered little more over what’s been done before I give The Heat 2 Reels out of 5. For a classic buddy hero story that we’ve seen a hundred times before I award 2 Heroes out of 5.