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The Heat

2013 | 117 min | R | 2.39:1

The Heat


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Theatrical release date

 28 June, 2013
 31 July, 2013

Country of origin

 United States

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The Heat Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 27, 2013

After spending a considerable amount of time floundering with his directorial career, Paul Feig hit pay dirt with 2011’s “Bridesmaids,” a rude, crude, profoundly improvised comedy centered on female characters. It makes sense to find Feig repeating the formula for “The Heat,” though the effort isn’t a twist on matrimonial madness movies, but buddy cop cinema, pairing Melissa McCarthy and Sandra Bullock as the titular force of justice, but only giving them a few pages of story to work with. The rest of the experience is a riffing hailstorm where everyone dashes for a punchline, disrupted by scenes of graphic violence to break up the monotony. It’s an aggressive picture in many ways, but it never comes together as a cohesive lampoon, meandering around chasing impulses instead of solidifying itself as a determined action comedy.

A smart but socially awkward woman who lives for the rules, F.B.I. Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is handed a special case from superior Hale (Demian Bichir), tasked with bringing down a ruthless drug lord in Boston. Hoping to make immediate headway in the case, Ashburn is blocked by Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a sloppy, unbalanced cop with anger issues who doesn’t enjoy the prospect of sharing her perps. Forced to team up, Ashburn and Mullins hit the streets, though their opposite approaches to law enforcement creates tremendous friction, with their shared intensity tearing through suspects, while irritating D.E.A Agents Craig (Dan Bakkedahl) and Adam (Taran Killam). Soon bonding over their broken lives, Ashburn and Mullins learn to appreciate each other’s vulnerabilities, gelling into a unit of mutual respect out to take down local thugs (including Michael McDonald), working their way to the number one suspect and the chance to finally earn the respect of their disapproving colleagues.

I respect the fact that “Bridesmaids” was such a hit, turning Feig into hot property overnight, with studios clamoring to repeat the success. “The Heat” doesn’t share the same wedding day anxiety, but it’s similar in many ways, playing R-rated hardball with female leads in what’s typically a male-oriented genre, glazed with warm acts of sisterhood and permissive with the entire cast. Feig doesn’t rock the boat, but he doesn’t improve the formula either, as much of “The Heat” smells strongly of rehash.

Although the screenplay is credited to Kate Dippold, it’s difficult to tell what exactly her input consists of. There’s a plot concerning illegal activity from the mysterious drug lord, but it’s hardly a primary concern for Feig, who simply inserts references to “The Shipment” every 20 minutes to snap the film out of its shtick trance and get back to business, only to lose interest once again. “The Heat” is more of a character-based effort, studying Ashburn’s anal ways of police work, a scrim of overbearing professionalism tainted by her clumsiness, while Mullins is a raspy bruiser dealing with dysfunctional family issues (Michael Rapaport plays her good-for-nothing brother), unable to throttle her rage and keep one-night-stands away. It’s a tired opposites attract approach for Dippold to take, leaving the director to jazz up the enterprise with a repetitive sense of humor.

Once again, improvisation rules with Feig, who encourages McCarthy to riff like crazy without taking a breath, while Bullock appears to miss the point of playing the straight woman by sprinting to joke opportunities as well, making the picture a layer cake of unimaginative make-em-ups, frosted with unyielding profanity. In fact, Feig surrenders “The Heat” to numerous scenes of superfluous behavior, including a mid-movie barroom event that involves heavy drinking and dancing (stopping the sluggish film cold), allowing Bullock and McCarthy a chance to simply enjoy each other without stimulating the plot, and there’s a strange scene that finds Ashburn performing an emergency tracheotomy on a choking patron of Denny’s. The disastrous, blood-spattered results are meant to reinforce the character’s misguided sense of do-goodery, but it’s a personality beat already established an hour earlier, making the moment meaningless, inserted to add shock value, jolting the audience unnecessarily. It’s a tactic Feig employs with greater urgency in what passes here for a grand finale. And for added mirth, there’s a bizarre running gag involving the ridicule of Agent Craig, who’s an albino. In a film that equates oral volume to guaranteed hilarity, this insistent bit seems particularly childish.

“The Heat” clocks in at a punishing 120 minutes in length, a ridiculous run time considering the intentional predictability of the plot, with the feature in serious need of pruning. However, taking the time to shape a tight comedy with genuine stakes doesn’t seem to be Feig’s modus operandi. He’s more interested in the moment, prolonging and puckering the work until it’s blue in the face and directionless. Whatever potential “The Heat” held in Dippold’s original script is transformed into a bloated carcass of a comedy, executed with maximum shrillness and surprising indifference.

Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Sandra Bullock, Kaitlin Olson, Ben Falcone, Marlon Wayans, Tony Hale
Director: Paul Feig

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The Heat 233 Jul 28, 2013

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