Movie Review: The Heat

The Heat is a buddy cop movie. But there’s a twist: the buddy cops are coppettes. Can you believe they made a woman police officer movie? With women? That’s kind of the gist we get from the opening sequence, Sandra Bullock leads a SWAT team into a house, nobody listens to her, and the all-male task force is almost happy when a thorough inspection of the scene turns up negative.

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Not so fast. Sandra Bullock isn’t like most other cops. She’s a woman. She checks under the table for drugs. And behind that wall for guns. Bingo. If only all of the guy cops could stand to be around her for more than ten seconds. They hate her. She’s so annoying. “I wonder why she doesn’t have a boyfriend,” some dude sarcastically wonders out loud.

It’s the old try-twice-as-hard-to-get-half-as-far dilemma, as evidenced by this accomplished federal agent’s inability to convince her boss that she deserves a promotion. “It’s just that,” her boss tries to break it to her gently, “nobody likes you.” And yeah, it’s not a very subtle gender bias, but they’re laying it on thick on purpose.

After a sweeping seventies cop-movie intro sequence, filled with this huge sweeping camera shot tour of New York City, the plot of the movie picks up, leading Bullock to go after a drug smuggling ring … in Boston. Someone should have told her that the Queensboro Bridge heads toward Long Island, but whatever, I’m sure that, once off camera, she must have realized her mistake and asked for directions, because she makes it to Boston in no time.

That’s where we meet Melissa McCarthy. Whereas nothing Sandra Bullock achieves seems to earn her the respect that she desires, McCarthy has thrown all sense of professionalism in the garbage. She knows that the system sucks, that it’s inherently unfair for her as a woman. So she does whatever she wants. She doesn’t try to get her coworkers to like her or to respect her accomplishments. No, when she doesn’t get her way, she curses, she threatens to smash people’s heads in, she plays Russian roulette with a guy’s penis, she’s a real loose cannon.

And surprisingly, this dynamic works. It’s a really funny, entertaining movie. When I saw the trailer, I thought it looked lame, cliché. I was like, didn’t Sandra Bullock already do the whole FBI agent role? I didn’t get it. And then I saw clips of McCarthy cursing and acting like lunatic, I thought, OK, she’s really riding that Bridesmaids character all the way.

But it works. The jokes are funny. Everything is really over the top. The only time that I felt like the movie got a bit carried away was when they started blatantly saying stuff like, “It really is hard for us women.” The whole theme of women in the workplace, it’s obvious just by having these two women team up and try to take down a drug kingpin. You don’t necessarily have to have anybody shooting a bad guy in the penis – which actually happens – to drive home the message that our conception of law enforcement is that it’s still a very male dominated industry.

Another reason why I think this movie is a success is because we’re so familiar with the buddy cop genre. Two cops with wildly different dispositions and philosophies are forced to team up, in turn overcoming their mutual distrust while at the same time learning more about themselves. They get carried away, they get taken off the case, they decide to go forward with the investigation anyway, and everything pays off in the end. Normally, a movie like this would get me upset. How dare the movie studios make such a derivative film and expect me to pay money for it?

But it’s the perfect vehicle for two women to take the lead. Because the plot is all but laid out already, it allows the characters to focus on how and why it’s different for them as women. Why should we care about a cop’s gender? I can’t help but feel that it’s one of those movies that’s almost more worried about getting male viewers to buy tickets than it is for females. Based on personal experience, it’s much easier for a woman to go on a date with a guy to see an action movie or a blockbuster or a comedy than it is for them to go see a romance or a chick-flick. This is the kind of rare exception that would probably satisfy both audiences.

A lot of it has to do with the dialogue, with McCarthy’s comedic presence. I got the image of cameras just running on her constantly, taping long improvised rants of obscenities and violent fantasies, and then they’d take the best stuff and edit it down for the movie. And even the stuff that did seem written out was equally as funny. There’s an absurd scene involving a botched tracheotomy at a Denny’s. It’s one of the most insane yet original bits I’ve seen in a long time.

Am I gender biased by continually writing about how surprised I am that I enjoyed this movie? I have no idea. I’d like to think no, because I’m usually surprised when I enjoy any movie. But again, I’m always reluctant to see a girlie movie. Why? Because I’m a guy, I don’t know, and no offense, but a lot of girlie movies out there put me to sleep.

The initial summer blockbusters have come and gone, and now it’s hit-or-miss comedies and action flicks until August and September. The Heat definitely hits. Go check it out.

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