' ' Cinema Romantico: The Heat

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

The Heat

“The Heat” begins with a scene possessing the ingredients to actually be interesting. A gaggle of male FBI agents have come up empty in their search of a suspect’s house. Then, Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) enters and immediately intuits the location of some drugs and the hiding spot of some guns. And like Kobe Bryant hitting one of his patented ridiculously angled twenty foot jump shots and then taunting everyone within a fifty foot radius, Ashburn lords her impeccable investigating skills over all her colleagues. She can do this job better and faster than an entire room of men and their obvious fury with her skills compared to theirs is palpable. But rather than making this the point of the scene – her skill set compared to theirs – the movie does pretty much what you’d expect to and brings it all back down to her relationship status. When Kobe gloats, he has hosannas penned in his honor about how he's “Doin' Work”. When Ashburn gloats, well hey, that's why she’s still single.

The potential for commentary on the ever-incendiary male/female workplace dynamic arises again and again, but alas, it’s not to be. Rather than give any real thought to its relationships and situations, “The Heat” is content to explore them by simply inserting two females into the overly-familiar framework of so many dude-centric buddy cop comedies of yore. “The Heat” is just “Lethal Weapon” with ladies, “The Other Girls.” And if Ashburn is the no-nonsense, primly-dressed, curse word-averse rule follower than the odds are 1-1 that her friend and foil will be strictly-nonsense, shaggily-dressed, curse word devotee rule breaker. And she is. Det. Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) is the brash Boston cop whose beat becomes interlocked with Ashburn’s case involving…..uh……well…… “The Heat” is something of a paradox in so much as it seems entirely disinterested with its plot while simultaneously putting way too much time toward its plot.

It is directed by Paul Feig, a man who has a knack for staging gags and for letting his actresses rock the ad-lib to the extreme. To wit, McCarthy, who often takes her sweet time winding to the punchline in “The Heat” before, improbably, barreling right past that punchline and into another punchline, and one that’s usually fairly foul-mouthed. She has a ferocious comic energy here, one that actually compliments Bullock’s fastidiousness pretty well, and it’s why you wish that Feig and his writer Katie Dippold had any desire whatsoever to do something more with these characters. Instead Mullins is, more or less, a monster who has alienated everyone in her department on account of her behavior, while Ashburn is her own kind of monster who has also alienated everyone in her department on account of her behavior. They’re just a pair of do-it-their-own-way cops forced to work together and better understand the value of teamwork while learning a little bit about themselves in the process. And that just seems like such a colossal waste, unless you’re figuring in box office receipts in which case......yippee ki ay.

Feig is set to helm the all female “Ghostbusters”, a concept which doesn’t so much bother me because women have no right to wear the professional paranormal investigations and eliminations uniform as it does because of, well, “The Heat.” Plugging women into something that already exists in its own rigid way and simply having them copy of the moves of the dudes that came before seems like a wretched disservice. Wouldn’t be more interesting to tell new stories or, at the very least, to employ genre constrictions to subvert them rather than just saying, Hey, women can be in meandering, occasionally humorous buddy cop flicks too.

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