The Heat Brings the Heat While Deconstructing the Genre it Emulates

Mondo's The Heat Poster

Mondo’s The Heat Poster

TitleThe Heat
Genre(s)Comedy, Action, Crime
Director(s)Paul Feig
Release Year2013

Paul Feig has already etched a name for himself with the cult following that Freaks & Geeks garnered, but when he directed 2011’s Bridesmaids, he furthered his career even more. That film also helped bring Melissa McCarthy into the spotlight, who happened to steal every scene she was in. So it’s not surprising that Feig and McCarthy have teamed up again, this time with the help of Sandra Bullock, to make another excellent comedy in The Heat. With a stellar supporting cast of different comedic actors, no qualms about poking fun at the buddy-cop genre, and one of McCarthy’s best performances to date, The Heat makes up for its formulaic plot to truly deliver the heat.

In what is probably the most tried and true formulas in Hollywood, The Heat pairs the straitlaced FBI Agent, Detective Ashburn (Bullock) with no-nonsense Officer Mullins (McCarthy), a local Boston police officer. The two opposite ends of the spectrum are forced to work together in order to bring down a drug lord who is killing off the competing drug dealers. Nothing new to see here and while that is somewhat frustrating, the rehashing of cliches allows writer Katie Dippold an opportunity to poke fun at the genre’s tropes. This deconstruction of the buddy-cop genre’s overused elements is exactly why The Heat is able to transcend the charisma of its cast to provide a commentary on how ridiculous some of the things movie do over and over, really are.

Watching these two opposites work together is magic.

Watching these two opposites work together is magic.

And any wit that is brought to the table in The Heat is delivered perfectly by McCarthy, who shows what she can do when given a foul-mouthed, ruthless character to play. Every line just feels right coming from her, and the interaction between her and Bullock is great. That being said, Bullock is perfect for her character and when Mullins and Ashburn first start interacting with each other, the chemistry could not feel more awkward. When the two inevitably start bonding, it leads up to a whimsical night drinking together in a run-down Irish pub, which is stereotypical but it feels natural. No matter how generic their characters are, the two play them exceptionally well and elevate the film to something more than it could have been with any other actors on board.

The supporting cast around them is also something to behold. They are not a group of well-known actors but are nonetheless a ton of recognizable faces in comedy like Tony Hale, Michael McDonald, Dan Bakkedahl, and Taran Killam, among many others. Each person gets their time to shine, but Bakkedahl really goes out there as an albino DEA agent, and McDonald plays a character that I’m surprised he hasn’t been attached to more often. There are other noteworthy actors in here as well, and they all play against the two leads very naturally. And to round off the compliments to the film, the soundtrack is used to decent effect, utilizing the kind of mix of rap and pop music you would expect from this kind of movie.

And the inevitable drunk bonding scene is great, as always.

And the inevitable drunk bonding scene is great, as always.

There are a few tiny problems with The Heat, though, most notably when it comes to its action. While there are decent moments, such as the opening chase scene between McCarthy and a drug dealer, there are other moments when explosions happen that are quite obviously computer-generated. The problem is that it just looks like someone imposed an explosion on top of the scene, using the kind of CG you would expect out of a low-budget action movie. Perhaps it was intentionally cheesy, but the effect didn’t work on me, instead feeling jarring against the actual action happening. As I said many times now, the plot is a weak point too, being very generic and commonplace for a buddy-cop movie. It has all the beats you would expect from that type of film, but the pleasant surprise is that it is self-aware of its tropes, on occasion.

It might seem a bit too forgiving to overlook The Heat‘s inherent cliches, but Dippold gives plenty of reason to do so with her very self-aware writing style. Yes, the movie follows a very predictable narrative, but when the cast play off each other, the film transcends its generic plot points. It is another action comedy that falters on delivering quality action, but the comedy elements are there in full force, and by the end there’s even some heart to the film. So while Feig may not have made himself another Bridesmaids, he continues to prove himself as an excellent comedy director who is able to get the best out of his cast, specifically Melissa McCarthy.

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