Don’t let cynical male movie critics, tell you this movie is not worth seeing. Yes, it takes a new low in Potty Mouth, it’s got my most-reviled buddy bonding trope—the old get-drunk-and-get-insight nonsense – it’s violent, it’s silly, and it’s achingly predictable, but while you’re on your way to the corny feel-good ending with the tabby cat of dubious origins, you are laughing your head off. Aw heck, you’re even wiping away a sentimental sisterly tear or two. Those are not bad things. They are good things.
Everyone in the packed audience loved this film because it’s actually funny. People were enjoying the film without paying attention to its historical significance. Historical significance? Stop guffawing. Yes, The Heat is historically significant in Hollywood movies. It’s a female buddy flick that breaks new ground – two unlikely women, both brave, headstrong, talented, honest and slightly daft, are in mortal danger, with no man in sight to bail them out. It’s as violent as most male buddy cop movies, and the romance factor, usually overwhelming in girl buddy movies, is so subtle that you’d miss it if you don’t look closely at the way Marlon Wayans grins at Sandra Bullock as she’s being wheeled out on a gurney in the end. Cute, very cute.
Everybody loves Sandra Bullock. At nearly 50 years old, she still comes across as everyone’s clueless older sister. She’s FBI agent Sarah Ashburn, an obnoxiously efficient federal agent who’s so good at what she does that all the guys hate her. She’s not going to get a well-deserved promotion because her boss (Demian Bichir) claims no one wants to play in the sandbox with her. colleagues.
To make her prove her mettle, Boss sends Ashburn off to Boston to crack a sadistic and seemingly unstoppable drug running cabal. She’ll get gold stars if she can arrest the elusive king pin.
Ashburn almost loses her starched silk shirts when she meets her local partner. It’s officer Shannon Mullins, played by Melissa McCarthy of Bridesmaids and TV fame. She’s a big, ballsy, out-of-control, lower class Boston cop. Ms. McCarthy is an acquired taste, but when you see her in stark contrast to goodie-two-shoes FBI agent Ashburn, she takes on a comfortable down home appeal.
Complicating the pretty intense crime shenanigans is the subplot of the travails of Shannon’s family. Turns out Shannon had to arrest her own brother Jason (Michael Rappaport) and throw him in the pokey to try to keep him off drugs. Her brawling brood, none of them too closely hewed to the finer points of Catholic morality, would rather kill Shannon Mullins than let her join them for Sunday corned beef and cabbage sit-down. Jane Curtin as the mother, way underused with only a few lines, steals every scene.
Director Paul Feig, who made McCarthy star in Bridesmaids, reprises his role as her mentor. But it’s important to note that both films, Bridesmaids and The Heat, were written by women. I doubt the films would have been so femme-friendly without women writers. Yes, the director has the final say in a film, but it’s the writer who has the first say, indicating from scene one what the theme of the film will be, and what the portrayal of women will be.
Boston serves as an exciting location for the movie, replete with an entertaining crew of wild secondary characters, some of whom have numbered in the legions of Shannon’s cast-off lovers. After some pretty gruesome cop work, and lots of detours, the gals find the bad guys. But will they live through being tied up together while waiting for the bad guys to come back and do them in?
Of course they will and that’s what makes the movie so satisfying. All those male critics who maligned this movie I guess are going to have to eat girl buddy crow. The Heat 2 is already in production. I can’t wait.