Monday, 8 July 2013
FILM REVIEW: THE HEAT
20th Century Fox Films
The buddy cop movie is nothing new (Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop, Rush Hour to name but three) but they're almost always male. Even with the advent of Cagney & Lacey, the 1980s US TV show about two female police officers, the female buddy cop movie has yet to break the cinema glass ceiling in quite the same way it has on the small screen let alone in real life.
That's not to say there were never any good-to-great female buddy comedies. In the same years that Cagney & Lacey ran on TV, Better Midler teamed with Shelley Long (Outrageous Fortune, 1987) and Lily Tomlin (Big Business, 1988) to quite wondrous effect. Midler also starred with Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn in the 1996 hit, The First Wives Club, which saw sisters doin' it for themselves (similarly, Tomlin, along with Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton, did it in Nine To Five in 1980).
More recently, the runaway hit Bridesmaids (2011) put paid to the ridiculous notion (if it ever really existed at all) that women aren't funny. The female ensemble comedy, led by Kristen Wiig, showed women behaving good and badly, and equalling -- and often besting -- their male counterparts, whose comedy antics over the last decade seem to be stuck in a man-child, gross-out rut.
Bridesmaids director, Paul Feig, is at the helm of The Heat, a female buddy cop movie penned by first-time screenwriter, Katie Dippold, which sees two polar opposites -- super-efficient FBI Agent, Ashburn (Sandra Bullock), and subtle-as-a-sledgehammer Boston cop, Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) -- forced to work together to bring down a drug cartel. Their unifying common ground: upholders of the law. Their common enemy: sexism.
And there are some interesting ideas at play in The Heat, particularly in relation to how women are treated and, in turn, respond in a predominantly male work environment. McCarthy's Mullins commands fear but not respect, while her dress sense and personal hygiene not only repels people but any risk of being sexualized by her male colleagues (not that Mullins is sexless; we encounter a couple of her broken-hearted one night stands).
Bullock's Ashburn is an over-achiever which means she's very good at her job but seems oblivious to the fact that her success makes her male colleagues look bad and feel threatened. That, of course, isn't Ashburn's problem -- as is often the case, it's the men's -- but there's no 'I' in team, and they already have one in Dicks Only Club (however small).
Not that Feig and Dippold are too preoccupied in hammering home the feminist message as the two comediennes go about breaking down doors, more so literally than figuratively. When neither officer is taken seriously by their commanders (one played by Oscar nominee, Demian Bichir) and removed from the case, they essentially go rogue with Ashburn encouraged to loosen up and Mullins, already armed to the teeth, to smarten up.
And as you'd expect (though not as much as you'd hope), Bullock and McCarthy bring the laughs, particularly in the film's second half where Mullins' obnoxious ways make way for some humanity, and Ashburn removes the by-the-book stick from her ass. But be warned: there's a tonne of language and the occasional graphic violence (including a do-it-yourself tracheotomy and a knife to the thigh) which may shock fans more accustomed to Bullock's The Proposal or McCarthy's Mike & Molly personas.
Focussing on the comedy, The Heat is nowhere near as funny as last year's buddy cop movie, 21 Jump Street. That's not a boy versus girl thing just a mere buddy cop comedy comparison (give me Melissa McCarthy over Jonah Hill any day, I say).
But it's never easy being the first (just ask former Australian Prime Minister, Julia Gillard), and if The Heat inspires a female buddy cop movie sub genre then that's something (I guess). There's already talk of a sequel to The Heat, and we can only hope that next time out the rest of the vehicle is as sound as the female duo driving it.