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The Heat

The Heat

I have no idea what's going on in this poster either

dir: Paul Feig

2013

Paul Feig made Bridesmaids. Bridesmaids made, perversely, something like a billion box office bucks.

So Paul Feig can basically do what he wants. When he makes another film with who might have been the main actor in Bridesmaids (barely anyone ever remembers that Kristen Wiig was even in it), and it's a buddy cop movie with female leads, well naturally it seems like Paul Feig is a great big feminist trying to right the imbalances of the past by pushing a particular agenda for female equality in the movies.

Nothing could be further from the truth. It's pure marketing. A lot of people find Melissa McCarthy funny. I find her funny. The last few films she's been in have scored big at the box office in such a way that it's impossible to argue that it's in spite of her presence, rather than because of it. Maybe people went to Bridesmaids without any idea of who she was, but no-one went to Identity Thief because of Jason Bateman. No-one came to this because of Sandra Bullock, Demian Bichir or Marlon Wayans.

It's all Melissa McCarthy. For some brief period of time, however long or short it may be, and I hope she gets to enjoy it, she is a box office queen.

But what does all this mean? Does this mean women are in the ascendant in Hollywood? That audiences are keener to see flicks with female leads, that McCarthy has broken through barriers and glass ceilings and such?

Maybe. But maybe they just find Melissa McCarthy funny. That's not the equivalent of pulling the ladder up after yourself, but her success doesn't mean everyone else gets a piece of the pie as well.

The key factor, for me, about all these films and the rise of Melissa McCarthy, who's been around for ages and was doing good work in stuff like Gilmore Girls way before she was 'promoted' to the big leagues, is that people are just going along to see her, solely to see her, because these films.. these movies? They're not very good, are they?

They are, in fact, pretty lazy, pretty chaotic movies that trade solely on her charm, her physicality and her willingness to humiliate herself for a laugh. This one especially is a parody of a format and a genre, being the mismatched buddy cop genre, which is a parody of itself.

And she's got a filthy mouth, and audiences love that shit.

The Heat is like a million other flicks crappy cop flicks, except it has Melissa McCarthy in it, so it must be good. Melissa McCarthy plays the least believable police detective since Arnie played one oh so long ago. I'm sure he's played one, I mean he must have at least in Kindergarten Cop, it's right there in the title.

She abuses fellow police, she abuses members of the public, including criminals, but she also is about half the height requirement. No, that's not accurate. What is accurate is that she's just a tiny bit over 5 feet in height, which makes this kind of casting the equivalent of Estelle Getty in Stop, or My Mom Will Shoot!, a geriatric woman showing up her cop son Sylvester Stallone out on the mean streets.

She is commended for the quality of her detective work, but all we see her do in the Sherlock Holmes stakes is find people and abuse / threaten them until they give her the information she wants. We never know why she thinks they have the info she needs, they just do, and she threatens them until it works. I'm not 100% sure that qualifies as police work in these enlightened times.

I know this used to be the norm back in the good old days of the 1930s, the 1990s and yesterday, and I personally miss the days where police brutality was applauded instead of punished, but the repeated claim that she's a good cop seems like overreaching.

Sandra Bullock plays an uptight, sexless, Botoxed to the gills FBI agent who is the fastidious and hyper-professional law enforcement obsessive who no-one likes because she's arrogant and superior, but mostly because she gets results, damnit! Of course they were going to become partners, somehow, and their polar oppositeness would ensure they hate each other for most of the film and then bond. We know this, because we're not stupid, or if we are stupid, we've at least watched a bunch of movies where we know what's coming and there are no surprises in Hollywood anymore. The film knows that we know this as well, and doesn't bother giving us reasons why we would await this transformation with anticipation and glee.

It felt a bit lazy to have these two play these roles. I think it would have been funnier to have McCarthy play the professional by-the-book FBI agent, and Bullock play the slovenly, hypersexualised Boston Irish corrupt cop. Why? Because why not? Stretch a little, people. Everyone expects McCarthy to play the roles she always ends up playing, and that's lazy. It's a form of ghettoisation. It's like saying, sure, we can tolerate a big funny woman on the big screen, but only if we make fun of (get her to make fun of) her sexuality. They routinely have scenes (including one with her real life husband) showing that she's a wham-bam love'em-and-leave-'em kind of girl, as if equating her outsized sexual appetite with her possible physical appetite, and it doesn't sit well with me. It taps into that ever pervasive stereotype of people of a certain weight being morally weak over-indulgers with no ability to regulate their appetites rationally, not like decent skinny white middle class people who are all about moral restraint and delayed gratification.

Actually, who doesn't find such intellectual quibbling funny, or, more accurately, everything Melissa McCarthy does funny? It's fucking hilarious, and maybe it should be celebrated, I don't know, it just seems a bit regressive to me, on a gender/sexual level especially.

She improvises her way through many scenes, and it's really obvious from the way that many of the co-stars around her seem to be at a loss when she does or says a lot of the things she does or says. One favourite scene of mine is where she runs into a hospital and tears a phone off a nurse, destroys the phone like she's Russell Crowe, and then runs out again. The nurse, in a great bit of acting, looks like she has no goddamn idea what's going on or what she should do, and just stands there floundering. Oscars will rain down in her future.

A lot of the improv stuff happens with Bullock around, and, to her credit, she tries to be quick and keep up with McCarthy's constant riffing, constant diversions. This doesn't always or often result in absolute hilarity, but it reminds us to not take the movie at all seriously, in case we were ever going to make that mistake. The plot, such as it is, is beyond generic, but we don't care about that. They search for an elusive criminal called Larkin, who I'm guessing was named after the great poet Phillip Larkin, but the Larkin search is nowhere taken as seriousness as the search for funny moments out of mundane setups.

Almost everything I've said thus far makes it sound like I hated this flick or like it's not funny, but I actually got a fair few laughs out of it. Of course it's overflowing with clichés, I can't fault it for that. We knew what we were getting into. But the abusive Boston Irish family stuff was hilarious to me, it had me weeping with laughter. The soft-spoken and decent father who routinely has black velvet paintings done of Jesus slam dunking for the Celtics or the Lord and Saviour smacking a puck for the Bruins out at the viewer tickled me immensely. The brothers (I think I recognised comedians Nate Corrdry and Bill Burr) who speak in that awesome / awful Southie accent, one of whom keeps asking Bullock’s character if she’s a narc, which comes out, with the accent, as ‘nawk’, or ‘noorg’ had me laughing.

One of my favourite odd jokes (deliberate jokes) was when Bullock’s character tries to be funny within the film by cracking a pun, thinking that she’d kill the room with the joke, and it is horribly bad, but what I loved was the expression on her face as she was about to make the joke (at the expense of the mutilated corpse in front of them), which was the perfect distillation of what an unfunny person looks like when they think they’re about to slay.

Their drunken shenanigans at the bar, their playing with knives, the sloppy way they do their good cop bad cop bullshit was all fairly amusing in a film which I can only at most say was somewhat amusing.

A lot isn’t, and it’s two hours, so it drags a bit. A tighter script, an actual script would probably have helped, and not having them be so incompetent when they do their confrontations with the baddies would have helped it look a bit more solid, instead of being pretty tedious in parts.

Still, who am I to stand in the way of the sisterhood? Give McCarthy (and that bony, botoxed bonehag Bullock, if you have to) more roles, Hollywood, more and more roles, and eventually maybe a really good comedy will eventuate.

6 times the intro being in sepia tones to connote that this is a 70s-like cop buddy comedy is strange to me out of 10

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“I'll kill her with your dead body!” – that’s efficient and effective – The Heat

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