Title: The Heat

Director: Paul Feig (‘Bridesmaids‘)

Starring: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Jane Curtain and Marlon Wayans

The pursuit of laughs, friendship and criminals in action crime buddy cop films has always been a thriving success with male characters, from ’21 Jump Street’ to ‘Die Hard’ to ‘End of Watch.’ But director Paul Feig, who found critical and box office acclaim with his female driven 2011 comedy ‘Bridesmaids,’ daringly put in the effort to make the first female buddy cop film with ‘The Heat.’ While the filmmaker captured clever and hilarious chemistry between his two lead stars, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, in his new movie, who were aided in part by intriguing costume designs, the at-times cliched story unfortunately failed to create a truly distinctive female-driven action crime drama.

‘The Heat’ follows F.B.I. Agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock), whose extreme arrogance has made her one of the most successful, but despised, workers in her New York field office. She hopes to please her boss, Hale (Demian Bichir), into giving her a promotion, and trying to figure out if she’s ready for the job, sends her to Boston. Ashburn is forced to work with the local police department, including the overly aggressive Detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy). The two eventually learn to cope with the other’s extremely different antics, with the help of Mullins’ recently paroled brother, Jason (Michael Rapaport) and fellow F.B.I agent Levy (Marlon Wayans), who expresses a romantic interest in Ashburn.

Bullock and McCarthy were well cast in the respective roles of the uptight F.B.I. agent and carefree Boston detective, and amusingly played off of each other’s physical antics. Whether wittingly holding a suspect from a fire escape to obtain information to comically dancing around a dive bar in a dangerous Boston neighborhood, the two actresses cleverly bonded their independent, take-charge characters. While Bullock and McCarthy created intensely independent characters while showing that Ashburn and Mullins firmly stood behind their preferred police tactics, they also formed a natural chemistry in their characters’ shared mission. In the first female driven buddy cop comedy, the actresses proved that women characters don’t need a man to help them thrive in their careers and relationships; Ashburn and Mullins succeeded in their decision to work together stop a dangerous city drug lord from further killing anyone else he perceived to be a threat.

While the two actresses once again thrive in the independent female comedy genre they’ve successfully appeared in before, with Bullock having starred in ‘Miss Congeniality’ and McCarthy receiving an Academy Award nomination for her previous collaboration with Feig on ‘Bridesmaids,’ the writing on ‘The Heat’ unfortunately failed to live up to both films. While ‘Parks and Recreation’ scribe Katie Dippold, who made her feature film directorial writing debut with ‘The Heat,’ deserves credit for creating two fearless and liberating female lead protagonists, there are several stereotypes the movie regularly used to elicit laughs.

Mullins is often targeted for her appearance, from her weight to the disheveled clothing she routinely wears, by her colleagues and suspects. She also often puts herself in situations where she undermines her appearance in order to ease tension, whether sliding through police cars after parking too close, or making herself a distraction at a nightclub so Ashburn can close in on a suspect. Ashburn, meanwhile, forsakes all personal relationships, as she feels disconnected from people after growing up in foster care and going through a divorce. She emphasizes her own professional achievements, even if it means alienating those around her, in order to say that she was able thrive in her job. It’s not until she witnesses Mullins’ free-spirited nature that she sees the need to change her uptight ways and become more willing to work with those around her.

Despite the at-times predictable story elements of the crime action comedy, Catherine Marie Thomas, the costume designer for ‘The Heat,’ effortlessly outfitted Bullock and McCarthy to perfectly represent their characters visually. The F.B.I agent initially arrived in Boston looking drab in monotone pant suits, which perfectly reflect her narrow-minded tendencies to only focus on her job. But once Ashburn begins working with the free-spirited detective, who regularly sported tattered vests, shirts and leather gloves that are reflective of the neighborhood she lives and works in, the F.B.I agents cleverly changes her style. She easily adapted the ragged boots and shirts of her partner, which clearly symbolizes their bond together.

Bullock and McCarthy were well cast alongside each other in the daring first female cop buddy action crime comedy. The two actresses naturally adapted their differing characters, proving that no matter how different their approaches to law enforcement are, their independent and strong natures effortlessly brought in laughs and sentiments to each other. While Dippold unfortunately gave into stereotypes and cliches in her feature film writing debut, the characters’ free-spirited nature did garner genuine laughs. The smart costumes designed by Thomas creatively reinforced the characters’ monotonous tendencies in the beginning of the film, but naturally changed as the F.B.I. agent and detective sentimentally began accepting the other’s at times crazy antics.

Technical: B

Acting: B+

Story: B

Overall: B

Written by: Karen Benardello


By Karen Benardello

As a graduate of LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic, Karen Benardello serves as ShockYa's Senior Movies & Television Editor. Her duties include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, and scribing movie, television and music reviews and news articles. As a New York City-area based journalist, she's a member of the guilds, New York Film Critics Online and the Women Film Critics Circle.

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