After being consistently disappointed by some of the summer’s most highly anticipated films (“The Great Gatsby” and “The Lone Ranger” to name two of them.), it was really refreshing to watch a film offering a great blend of comedy, drama, mystery, and action for 111 minutes of total entertainment from beginning to end.
In “The Heat,” Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy play two diametrically opposed law-enforcement officers who reluctantly (at first) combine forces to solve a big drug case. The result is a delightfully fun-filled film that would be very easy watch several times.
Bullock is Sarah Ashburn, a New York-based FBI Special Agent with superb investigative skills and an impressive arrest record. The only problem is that she is fully aware of her prowess and makes no effort to hide it. In fact, her insufferable arrogance has made her fellow officers view her with the utmost contempt and loathing.
Now Sarah’s boss is a guy named Hale (Demian Bichir), and he is up for a promotion that will leave his position open, and Sarah desperately wants it. But because of her shaky relationship with her colleagues, Hale is hesitant to recommend her for the job. Thus, he sends her to Boston, where a drug lord named Larkin is causing problems, and he says if she can clear up this case, he will consider recommending her for his job.
The head honcho of the Boston Police Department is Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a no-nonsense, streetwise cop with an affinity for interspersing her speech with copious F-bombs. Shannon is one tough babe, and the last thing she wants is a sophisticated FBI agent invading her turf, and the strait-laced Sarah finds Shannon totally repulsive. But she soon realizes that this unconventional cop will be an invaluable asset to cracking the Larkin case.
Although considerable sparks fly between Sarah and Shannon when they first meet, they ultimately arrive at an uneasy truce and agree to help each other. As they get to know each other better, they really bond to become a hilarious law-enforcement odd couple. And Shannon even takes Sarah to meet her raucous family, all of whom despise her at the moment because she arrested her own brother, Jason (Michael Rappaport), and sent him to jail for his own protection from drug dealers.
As their investigation proceeds, Sarah and Shannon find themselves pitted against several unsavory characters, and when Jason is released from prison, they discover that he may hold the key to bringing down Larkin’s organization.
“The Heat” has given us an absolutely terrific female cop team that is at once extremely tough and very funny. Both Bullock and McCarthy seem to revel in their respective roles, and the chemistry between the two of them is fabulous. They play off one another perfectly throughout the film, and their constant repartee is wonderful.
In an online interview both McCarthy and Bullock spoke about the importance of the script in making the film work so well.
“I do think comedy needs to be a living thing, but I think without a great script and fully realized characters that you cannot keep it living,” McCarthy said. “Otherwise, it just becomes long and rambling and indulgent, so I think you need both, frankly.”
“I agree,” Bullock said. “If you’re going to tell a story from beginning to end, I think you always have to have a great structure and a script and Katie Dippold, our writer, wrote something that we both immediately got excited about. We could see the characters, and as Melissa says, once you realize you’re starting to tweak in futz with a character you know you’re on to something. If it gets you excited and you’ve never read it before, that’s another plus. I think also with improv and that whole world of standup — that’s a whole other organism of comedy that still needs a story but it’s more free-form. So on the set it was the combination of both those worlds coming together: a great script and then allowance to play a little.”
The part of Shannon was made for McCarthy, who plays the role to the hilt. Her colleagues on the Boston Police Force are terrified of her, and among the many memorable scenes in the film is the one where she insults her boss in his office in front of Sarah. Shannon is brash, loud, obnoxious, mean, and profane, and McCarthy maintains her character’s personality traits superbly throughout the film.
Whereas Shannon remains pretty much the same person during the film, Bullock’s character undergoes a dramatic change. When Sarah first meets Shannon, she has nothing but contempt for her, but as she comes to know her better, she realizes that there is a real heart buried underneath the tough exterior, and she also learns to respect her abilities as a law-enforcement officer. By the time the film ends, Sarah’s character has morphed from a prudish, by-the-book FBI agent to a hard-nosed enforcer who matches Shannon stride for stride and F-bomb for F-bomb.
In addition to showcasing two fascinating characters “The Heat” offers some good suspense, a few nice plot twists, a number of action scenes, and more funny segments than I’ve seen in a long time. In a word, this film is a hoot.
Now before you trot out to see this movie, allow me to issue a warning. The film is not for everyone because the language is beyond rough. In addition to myriad uses (190 to be exact) of the infamous F-bomb, Shannon and ultimately Sarah run almost the complete gamut of profanity. Anyone who is offended by four-letter words should stay away, but the point is that the language plays a large part in the film, and it would not be nearly as funny without it.
“The Heat” is the most fun-filled movie I have seen all summer, and it earns a very respectable final score of eight. I completely fell in love with Sarah and Shannon, and I liked them so well that I hope they come back in a number of “Heat” movies. Bullock and McCarthy definitely could make Sarah and Shannon a hot franchise.