Oscar-winner Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) and Oscar-nominee Melissa McCarthy (Bridesmaids) star in a buddy cop movie. It's basically a female version of Lethal Weapon or Beverly Hills Cop. The most recent comparison for some critics is The Other Guys (2010) starring Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.
Bullock plays Special Agent Sarah Ashburn with the New York City branch of the FBI. Ashburn is better than a drug-sniffing dog but she's very uptight, mild-mannered and by the book. Meanwhile, McCarthy plays Detective Mullins, an officer with the Boston Police Department who is wild, crazy and a total loose cannon. She curses up a storm and bullies everyone she encounters. Basically, she's the complete opposite of Bullock. Both are good at their jobs but for different reasons, and both have social problems. The two reluctantly team up to take down a drug kingpin who is on a horrible killing spree.
Any accuracy to how real cop work is done is totally thrown out the window. The only semblance to how a real law enforcement officer would behave is embodied in the character played by Marlon Wayans who goes against type here. Typically, Wayans is loud and over-the-top, and almost everything he does is affected. Here, he's opposite that, and to great effect. He's charming in a subtle way and for the first time on screen, he's even sexy.
Yet, the reason Wayans can't be loud and over-the-top is mainly because McCarthy dominates that role. She's so loud, so over-the-top and so in every one's face that any one else doing such would have been unbearable for this movie. She essentially is a bully. Whether it's criminals or co-workers, she bullies everyone, including her own boss Captain Woods, played by Tom Wilson (Back to the Future and Freaks and Geeks).
Mullins' bullying lends for some great comedy, funny lines and actions. When it comes to that, many of the jokes are built around the emasculation of men. Mullins verbally bashes men about the reduced size of their manhood or with her gun physically threatens to reduce the size of their manhood herself. When it comes to her own sexuality, Mullins is very strong and confident. She doesn't do relationships, but she seems to have a string of men whose manhood she enjoys only for one night.
Mullins' equally loud, if not louder, family makes the family in The Fighter (2010) look tame by comparison. The family is of course an extreme stereotype or parody of an Irish-Catholic, Boston family. The at times unintelligible Boston accent is evidence of that. Of course, this stereotype couldn't be considered such a specific one to Irish-Catholic, Boston families. It could be applied to so many families in general, which I think allows everyone to laugh at them.
Even though it's the first time in a long time that two women have led an action comedy, the fact that they are women only plays into one scene, a nightclub scene. Yes, throughout the film, there are mentions to the difficulty that women have in the workforce, particularly a male-dominated one, male-dominated often because of the physicality involved. Yet, being women really isn't a factor here.
To that end, it's funny how the genders of the two women are challenged or confused. When Ashburn meets Mullins' family, the family without irony asks her if she used to be a man. Either it's a really deadpan teasing or they were genuinely asking if Ashburn were transsexual. In at least two instances, Ashburn confuses Mullins' gender. She literally mistakes a man for Mullins on two occasions.
Even though I shouldn't, I'm going to do something that Armond White does frequently to mostly annoying effect. I'm going to compare The Heat to Laurence Anyways. Both films are vastly different, but they do share the same theatrical release date, June 28, 2013. In Laurence Anyways, the main character isn't accused of being transsexual. He actually is transsexual.
I bring it up because I criticized Laurence Anyways for the message it sent about women. Its message was in order to be a woman, a man needs to wear long hair, makeup and dresses. It's more of a superficial distinction. Here, however, The Heat presents both Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, two different temperaments and two different body types, but yet both have their genders confused. Somehow, that confusion says more about womanhood, what it is and what it isn't, than Laurence Anyways does.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 57 mins.