The action-comedy buddy-cop movie as we know it really surfaced in the ‘80s. Though coerced-con Eddie Murphy and undercover cop Nick Nolte weren’t on equal footing, they hit all the right notes in a 1982 romp that may have started it all—at least on the big screen. “48 Hours” blended the kind of rapid-fire jokes, serious shootouts, and blatant disregard for “by the book” police work that’s since become a trademark of such movies.
Not long afterwards came Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines in “Running Scared” (1986) and an inspired pairing of Mel Gibson and Danny Glover for the first “Lethal Weapon” film (1987) that really reinforced the loose cannon-conservative lawman match-up. Since then, fans of the relatively new sub-genre have enjoyed the pairing of such opposites as Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker (“Rush Hour,” 1998), Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (“Hot Fuzz,” 2007), and Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg (“The Other Guys,” 2010).
But apart from TV’s “Cagney and Lacey” there hasn’t been much in the way of female buddy cops . . . until now.
In “The Heat,” Sandra Bullock plays uptight and arrogant FBI Special Agent Sarah Asburn, while Melissa McCarthy is foul-mouthed, rough-around-the-edges (and everywhere else) Boston undercover narcotics cop Shannon Mullins. What brings them together? Everyone in the FBI hates Ashburn, not only because she’s the best, but also because she gloats like crazy every time she solves a case everyone else was ready to walk away from. You get the feeling that her superior sends her to Boston to try to bust a drug lord who’s gotten way too violent not just because they want to take him down, but because everyone wants Ashburn out of New York City. Told she has no chance of promotion unless she completes this assignment and proves she can work with the local talent, she’s partnered with a big, angry, Irish woman who makes working together even tougher.
Predictably, they annoy each other, they bait and goad each other, they try to upstage each other, then begin to respect each other as each makes inroads in the case. Eventually they learn how to work together, despite being fire and ice.
In other words, “The Heat” is pretty by-the-numbers when it comes to plotting. But plodding it’s not. Director Paul Feig (“Bridesmaids”) has a knack for keeping most sequences moving crisply along while filling slower scenes with fun details or interesting character blocking and interaction.
“The Heat” has gotten mixed reviews, but I frankly don’t know what some people’s problem is. Though there’s not as much shooting or fighting as in some buddy cop comedies, “The Heat” is at least as entertaining as “Rush Hour” and “The Other Guys,” and probably has more laugh-out-loud moments. Partly that’s because of writer Katie Dippold (“MADtv,” “Parks and Recreation”), but you’ve got to give a huge share of the credit to the comic timing and chemistry of Bullock and McCarthy. They really click together, so it’s no surprise that the two will return in “The Heat 2,” which has already been announced. McCarthy especially is awfully funny, and maybe having a woman as the rogue cop makes it more hilarious than if all the bad-cop antics were coming from a guy.
Though the main police investigation builds to a third act that isn’t as surprising as the filmmakers think it is, Bullock and McCarthy are so fun to watch that you don’t mind the lack of invention one bit.
“The Heat” is rated R for “pervasive language, strong crude content and some violence.”
Most of “The Heat” was filmed in Boston, and cinematographer Robert Yeoman finds a way to make almost every shot one that grabs you by the collar and says (like McCarthy’s character), PAY ATTENTION. Particularly impressive are the long shots that capture the flavor of the neighborhoods. Colors are suitably saturated, black levels are adequate, and the level of detail is quite nice. There may not be as much of a 3D effect as on some Blu-rays, but overall it’s a nice presentation. “The Heat” comes to Blu-ray via an AVC/MPEG-4 encode, and it there are problems I didn’t notice any. The ratio is 2.40:1 widescreen.
For a DTS-HD MA 5.1, the featured English soundtrack has an awful lot of energy and saturation. The room simply fills with sound, and the bass has the kind of kick-down-the-door thump that you’d expect from an action film. Additional audio options are an English Descriptive 5.1, and a Spanish and French Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.
There’s a bunch o’ bonus features here, but if you’re not much of a commentary fan, the offerings shrink. Three commentaries are included: one with the director, one with Melissa McCarthy and others, and another with an in-character commentary starring the Mullins family.
I’d much rather watch featurettes. The best of the bunch is a 20-minute feature on “How The Heat Was Mad,” and while it’s a bit routine, compared to the commentaries (some of which seemed to be trying too hard to be entertaining), it seemed like a revelation.
Trying too hard seems to be a theme, because director Feig introduces a number of short segments with a different alter ego. All the segments feel like gag reels, and that might appeal to some fans, but not me. Among the entries are “Mullins Family Fun” (9 min.), Acting Master Class (8 min.), “Let’s Get Physical” (7 min.), “Police Brutality” (7 min. of more outtakes), “Von Bloopers” (16 min.), “Supporting Cast Cavalcade (8 min.), and “All the Stuff We Had to Take Out But Still Think Is Funny” (29 min.).
There’s also a fairly standard “How The Heat Was Made” (20 min.), and clips that purportedly “immerse” you into the action (Boo! Hiss!) that aren’t very effective.
“’The Heat’ is a solid buddy-cop action-comedy that draws all its energy from Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, who are flat-out funny and fun to watch. The plotting may be familiar, but snappy writing and direction and great performances make it come alive.