Film review: THE HEAT, from Built For Speed

Science fiction literature is full of stories about mad professors conducting hideously unethical gene- splicing experiments to create hybrid monsters. A similar process seems to have gone into the making of comedy The Heat where the crazy scientists have spliced Miss Congeniality with Identity Thief.  The result is, despite the best efforts of the cast, a fumbling and unfunny variation on both the buddy cop and odd couple film sub-genres although this time the action revolves around a female duo played by Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

Sandra Bullock plays a socially awkward FBI agent (Sarah Ashburn) who constantly manages to irritate her boss and co-workers with her snooty, uptight, by-the-book, know-it-all attitude.  Having been dispatched to investigate a series of drug-related murders in Boston, Ashburn finds herself paired with streetwise cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy).  To Ashburn’s horror, Mullins is an abrasive, foul-mouthed, Neanderthal slob who dresses like Serpico and employs policing methods that make Dirty Harry look like a new age wimp.

The film attempts to extract laughs from their personality clash and contrasting physical attributes but the gags constantly misfire.  The humour is forced, clumsy, obvious and mostly devoid of wit.

Director Paul Feig who previously gave us the ground-breaking hit Bridesmaids and writer Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation) seem unsure in which direction they want to take this film as it makes jarring gear changes between zany comedy, straightforward crime drama and even gory violence.  Consequently, the film fails to establish any momentum, comic or otherwise.  It doesn’t help that The Heat contains ridiculous lapses in logic such as a gangster tying up Ashburn and Mullins but leaving them with a knife that will obviously allow them to escape.

It’s only the charisma of the two leads that save this film from “turkeydom”.  Melissa McCarthy does her usual ballsy, borderline crazy shtick which, for the moment, is still fresh. If she keeps relying on this, though, she risks becoming the female Adam Sandler; in fact her crass low-life family in this film could have come straight out of a Sandler pic.  Surprisingly, though, McCarthy is convincing in what passes for serious scenes in this film and shows that she could pull off a straight dramatic role.

Sandra Bullock still has that cute, quirky appeal that led to her initial screen success and is a lively and likeable screen presence. Mostly because of the material, though, she’s never laugh out loud funny but she like McCarthy shows she can do the action scenes and physical comedy.

Despite this film’s quirkiness and apparent support for the rebellious individual, The Heat still adheres to the right wing values of the American cop film with plenty of gun worship and the attitude that it’s ok to beat or shoot a confession out of a suspect.

The Heat will no doubt find a substantial audience based on the appeal of its two leads but its clichéd script and still-born gags make it another disappointing addition to cinema comedy in 2013

Nick’s rating: Two and half stars.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Paul Feig.

Release date: 11th July 2013.

Running time: 117 mins.


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