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Review: The Heat (2013)

The Heat (2013)

Directed by: Paul Feig

Premise: An overachieving FBI agent (Sandra Bullock) pairs with a sloppy beat cop (Melissa McCarthy) to take down a drug lord.

What Works: The Heat is at its best when it allows Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy to play off each other. This is a very funny movie and virtually every scene has at least one laughable moment. Bullock and McCarthy are a solid comedy team with each possessing specific character and comedic turf. Both of the actors are cast to type, with Bullock as the smug girl-next-door and McCarthy as the blue-collar loud mouth. Neither actor is challenging herself but they are both skilled comic performers and it is unique to see Bullock in a movie that has a hard-R rating. The filmmakers clearly delight in the coarser comedic bits but they also demonstrate a healthy sense of restraint, allowing Bullock and McCarthy room to perform while keeping the comic riffs and set pieces from overextending themselves as happened to McCarthy in Identity Thief. The supporting cast also includes a few reliable actors including Demián Bichir, Marlon Wayans, and Michael Rapaport and they contribute a lot of credibility to the movie.

What Doesn’t: The Heat is similar to 2008’s Pineapple Express in that this is a movie in which it seems like the filmmakers were unclear about what kind of picture they were trying to make. The Heat alternates between scenes of silly comedy and harsh violence and each of these qualities offsets the other. The comedy is funny but when the gags are juxtaposed with realistic scenes of people being shot in the head the comic energy of the picture takes a dive. But the comedy also takes away from the credibility of the violence even though the action is presented seriously. Comedy and violence can work together as seen in Lethal Weapon or In Bruge, but the tone has to be consistent. The tone of The Heat veers so wildly that viewing it is like flipping between two different movies. The Heat is clearly inspired by 1980s buddy cop movies and one of the elements of those pictures that it borrows the most is the reliance on coarse language. There is nothing wrong with that but like many of the films it imitates, The Heat overplays the vocal vulgarity to the point that it loses the edge and becomes obnoxious. If the police procedural aspects of The Heat are supposed to be taken seriously, and the tone of those scenes suggest that they are, this film is lacking as a detective story. The mystery is a confusing mess that does not make much sense. There is very little actual detective work here with the filmmakers opting instead for repetitious scenes of the main characters waving their guns in other people’s faces. And that is a troubling aspect of The Heat; this is yet another movie that glorifies police brutality. To be fair this has been an issue in police movies going back at least as far as Dirty Harry and The Heat is nowhere near as extreme as movies like Gangster Squad or television programs like 24. But in some ways the lionization of police brutality is more troubling here because the filmmakers of The Heat make an un-ironic joke out of coercing suspects at gunpoint.

Bottom Line: The Heat is more successful as a comedy than as an action picture, but its makers were clearly more interested in making the audience laugh and so on that level the film is a success. Actors Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy are a terrific comedy team but it would be nice if they were paired in a movie that made better use of their talents.

Episode: #447 (July 14, 2013)