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The Heat - Review

The Heat

Review by Rob Carnevale

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

THE mis-matched cop genre gets a female makeover in The Heat – but far from burning up the screen its leading ladies Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy only succeed in generating a lukewarm reaction.

Much of the blame for this surely lies with Katie Dippold’s script, which struggles to find much laughter early on and often over-milks the jokes that do work.

But there’s also the suspicion that for all its effort to bring something new to the genre, it’s still trading on the familiar: in this case, Bullock’s Miss Congeniality persona and the same motor-mouthed tendencies that McMarthy has been displaying since breaking big with Bridesmaids – whose director, Paul Feig, is also behind the camera here.

The set-up is as follows. Uptight, by-the-book FBI agent Ashburn (Bullock) is desperate to land a promotion but has to convince her boss (A Perfect Life‘s Demian Bichir) that she can also be a people person.

Hence, when a mysterious (but vicious) new drug dealer appears on the streets of Boston she is sent to uncover the man and bring him down. Once there, however, she’s forced to contend with brash, rule-breaking street cop Mullins (McCarthy) who quickly becomes her partner and, eventually, her friend.

Familiarity aside, Feig’s film has plenty of scope to be funny but takes an age to really get going amid tiresome set-ups and initially laboured joke-making. It’s a stretch to believe either women could be good cops, let alone the type of people worth hanging out with for nearly two hours.

But once the bickering between them settles down and the two relax in each other’s company, turning their comedic focus more against their doubters and enemies rather than each other, the film starts to win you over, albeit slowly.

Bullock clearly has fun dirtying up her clean image (a potty-mouthed breakdown is genuinely funny), while McCarthy makes the material work for her even though she’s been in this kind of thing one too many times before.

Genre nods to the likes of Training Day and Bad Boys are also cheekily observed, while a recurring joke involving a rival albino DEA agent often proves a winner, as does frequent drop-ins by McCarthy’s dim-witted family (a nod to the similarly bickering Boston family from The Fighter?).

Ad-libbed moments also succeed in lending the film a freshness that the stale script often stifles.

The overall result is that The Heat just about wins through in spite of the many flaws surrounding it. And credit for that lies mostly at the feet of its hard-working central partnership.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 117mins
UK Release Date: July 31, 2013