[Screen It]

"THE HEAT"
(2013) (Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy) (R)

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QUICK TAKE:
Comedy: A straitlaced but friendless FBI agent clashes with a caustic and coarse Boston detective when they're teamed together to bring down a ruthless drug kingpin.
PLOT:
Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (SANDRA BULLOCK) is an accomplished FBI agent who's jockeying for her boss' position when he's promoted. The only problem is that no one likes her in or outside of the Bureau, so her boss says that if she can bring down a Boston-based drug kingpin, he'll consider her for the position. Arriving in Beantown, she immediately gets to work with the help of local FBI Agent Levy (MARLON WAYANS) in interrogating drug dealer Rojas (SPOKEN REASONS).

That doesn't sit well, however, with Boston detective Shannon Mullins (MELISSA McCARTHY) whom both the criminals and other cops equally fear. Coarse, unapologetic, brutish and not above abusing suspects to get what she wants, Shannon isn't happy with the FBI agent working her perp. Yet, the two end up as unlikely partners, with Shannon having a vested interest in cracking the case since she worries that her brother, Jason (MICHAEL RAPAPORT) -- who she put in prison for dealing and using drugs but has just been paroled -- might have a connection to the drug lord.

Also interested are DEA agents Craig (DAN BAKKEDAHL) and Adam (TARAN KILLAM) who aren't happy with the ladies invading their turf, while the kingpin's various henchmen, such as the sadistic Julian (MICHAEL McDONALD), likewise want Shannon and Sarah removed from the equation. With the two having to put their substantial differences aside, the FBI agent and Boston detective use their individual as well as combined tactics to track down the kingpin.

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
The so-called "buddy film" has been a movie genre that's been around for decades where the two main characters contrast in terms of personality, behavior and so on. Some such films are straight comedies featuring the likes of Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, and Martin and Lewis. Others, such as the "Lethal Weapon" flicks feature cops or other such law enforcement officers teamed together to tackle some sort of criminal activity. And many combine those elements, resulting in films such as "48 Hours," "Bad Boys," "Rush Hour," "Men in Black" and so on.

What's most notable about all of those flicks and many more is that they feature men in both roles, with one playing the straitlaced, more conservative character and the other embodying the wilder and usually younger type. The two immediately clash and continue to do so through most of those stories, but manage to figure out how to work together to solve the issue at hand, all while learning a thing or two about both their partner and themselves.

It's a tried and true formula that's even resulted in a sub-genre where men are paired with man's best friend in flicks such as "Turner & Hooch" and "K-9." What's notably missing are the women. Sure, there are female characters in many of those films, be they of the girlfriend/wife variety, work-related colleague and such. But as far as I can tell, and not counting "Thelma & Louise" (that doesn't really qualify as the title characters didn't clash along the lines of the genre's settings) there haven't been two females in the lead roles of any such pic.

That now changes with the arrival of "The Heat," a mismatched buddy movie where Sandra Bullock plays the "straight man" (sorry, couldn't resist) FBI agent to Melissa McCarthy's acerbic and wild Boston detective. They end up as unlikely partners as they "work together" to bring down a Boston area drug lord.

The apparent point of screenwriter Katie Dippold's script is that the ladies can do the clashing bit just like the fellows, a stand that likely helped draw the attention of director Paul Feig. He did something similar in terms of gender bending back in 2011 by showing that the ladies can get down, dirty and raunchy just like the boys in the comedy "Bridesmaids."

Not coincidentally, that film featured McCarthy in a scene-stealing supporting part, but there's a big difference between lending support and heading up the cause, albeit with an Oscar-winning actress along her side. This is Bullock in "Miss Congeniality" style mode, however, rather than that of "The Blind Side." All of which means that if you love the stereotypes these two have played before, you'll likely enjoy them reprising that here, as well as playing off each other.

On the other hand, if you've tired of that repetitiveness, this might be something of a long slog (nearly two hours) to sit through, watching them do their familiar shtick. It doesn't help matters that little creativity has been applied to the gender bending of the usual roles of the buddy comedy genre.

As "Bridesmaids" already proved, the ladies can get down and dirty as well as the gents and this continues that trend, especially from McCarthy who swears like a sailor, is meaner than a junkyard dog and seems to enjoy wallowing in the crudity of the character. All that's missing is her adjusting her crotch and we'd have just about all of the male attributes covered.

To be fair, there are a few amusing moments and lines of dialogue scattered in various parts of the film. But if the filmmakers were intent on continuing to pursue the "bad girls" angle blazed by the film's predecessor, it would have been far more interesting -- and maybe even funnier -- had the actresses switched parts.

In fact, they could have started off the way we'd automatically expect them -- Bullock being the proper one, McCarthy the whirlwind of bad manners and sloppy attire -- but then reveal they were just playing that way in order to execute some part of their job. They then could have done one-eighties into the behavior they'd continue for the rest of film in a bit of role reversal.

Not only would that have challenged viewer expectations, but also the performers to stretch a bit out of their comfort zone. As it stands, they don't seem challenged and thus feel as if they're gliding along on already established mannerisms and such (although McCarthy is getting good at playing this character type).

As in most such cop buddy flicks, the villains are two-dimensional, but some viewers might be surprised by the amount of violence in the flick (especially if they're thinking it's just going to be a goofy, over-the-top comedy). It, the language, sexual content and more definitely fall into R-rated territory, but as I've said before, dropping more than 100 F-bombs shows a certain lack of wit in terms of screenwriting, and such language gets a bit old here.

With a change in that, the lead roles and with 30 or more minutes excised from the final run-time, this might have been a smart and lean if decidedly adult comedy. As it stands, it's bloated and redundant, with the new XX chromosome shell adding nothing to the mix. "The Heat" is lukewarm at best and thus rates as just a 4 out of 10.




Reviewed June 25, 2013 / Posted June 28, 2013


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