Not exactly original, but explosive fun: The Heat

The hEatONCE you’ve seen a buddy-cop film, you’ve seen them all, and The Heat is no exception.

By-the-book FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is the top agent in the FBI, and she makes sure everyone knows it. She is assigned to hunt down a dangerous drug dealer who goes by the name of Larkin, and must team up with tough-as-nails, streetwise detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) of the Boston PD. They don’t get on that well. Sound familiar? It should, considering it’s been done many times before, from Starsky and Hutch to Rush Hour.

However, director Paul Feig knows how formulaic the plot is, and uses it like a sandbox to do whatever he wants with, and he does wonderfully by adding a little thing into it: women.

The main charm of the film comes from the explosive chemistry between McCarthy and Bullock. The screenplay is rife with comedic hits specially made for the two, with McCarthy being let loose, cursing and beating her way through the film mercilessly with whoever she can find. In this writer’s opinion, the role of Mullins was made for her. Bullock is pretty much at her forte, showing off her razor-sharp wit, something rarely seen without any romantic undertone. She has always been known for playing the straight-laced, plain Jane, and as Agent Ashburn, she plays to that extremely well, adding a ton of arrogance into the mix, which turns her into “that girl” at the office. The one whose reports are always on time; never early, never late. And she will never let you forget it. Together, they get on like an ill-tempered, foul-mouthed house on fire, from the moment they crash into each other to the bittersweet end.

The writing itself is superb: it never loses track of what it is, and sometimes subtly deconstructs the buddy-cop dynamic, and of female-led comedies in general. Most of the laughs come from the female duo doing what men usually do, while revelling in their feminine, er, charm. Usually, in such films, the know-it-all heroine gets a sudden makeover, and is revealed to be this sexual goddess, and never looks back. Here, we get Ashburn’s work clothes being torn up in the women’s toilets by Mullins so they can blend in inside a nightclub, and it’s wonderfully cringe-worthy. This pretty much sets the tone for the film, and this writer can guarantee it can only get better.

The feel of the movie is perfectly measured, too. The opening credits are straight out of Hawaii Five-O with a healthy dash of 70’s nostalgia. The cinematography plays with the comedic timing all too well, giving the audience the leisure of watching the duo fumble around while still provide the fast-paced action the buddy-cop genre is known for. All this, without succumbing to the shakycam most action films incorporate to seem “dynamic”, or feeling like the action is cut short because some laughs are needed.

For all its comedic triumphs, the film still retains an all-too-familiar story in Mullins and her family, and that emotional depth hits its hardest amongst all the vagina jokes and the smart-assery. The story, even though it should, never feels too cheesy. Instead, it feels like a tale told with different people in different cities but ultimately say the same message: you fight for the person standing next to you.

Overall, it’s an excellent take on the formulaic buddy-cop mix. It’s not a wholly original film, but in a summer of rehashes and tired sequels, The Heat brings the much-needed noise. It’s entertaining, formulaic, explosive fun.