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The Heat' is on

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Female buddy cop movie delivers laughs

There's no denying that Hollywood likes its formulas. After all, they're in the business of making money if a certain type of film does well at the box office, obviously they're going to try to find ways to continue making that film. All you need is a little bit of a tweak and you've got yourself another smash.

Of course, when it comes to comedy, the summer isn't necessarily a slam-dunk. Big shoot-em-up action spectaculars sell big in the dog days; comedy is something else entirely. But if you can take one of those preexisting formulas and build a comedy around itwell, then you might have something.

Something like 'The Heat.'

Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock, 'Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close') is a top-flight FBI agent, one of the best in her department. She consistently closes more cases and makes more arrests than any of her peers. However, her uptight nature has made her a lot of enemies as well; she's good at her job but no one really likes working with her.

When her boss (Demian Bichir, 'Savages') tells her that there's a new big-time drug dealer making the scene and sends her to Boston to investigate, she sees it as an opportunity to make one more big bust that could push her over the top and land her the promotion she's been angling for.

Unfortunately, Ashburn soon finds herself at odds with Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy, 'Identity Thief'), a detective with the Boston PD who is the very definition of a maverick, playing by her own rules and basically rampaging through the city's criminal underworld with no aim other than to put scumbags in jail.

So obviously, the two wind up as partners.

Ashburn and Mullins consistently butt heads as each finds the other's methodology to be suspect and ineffective. They also find themselves at odds with the DEA, which has had its own agents in pursuit of this mysterious drug dealer for months. Before long, things spiral out of control and both Ashburn and Mullins realize that they're going to have to find a way to get along and work together if they're to have any chance of tracking down this shadowy criminal and putting an end to his rapidly growing empire.

'The Heat' is relatively simple at its core. The concept of the 'buddy cop' movie has become a cinematic clich since it reached its zenith with 'Lethal Weapon' - you've got the hotheaded rebellious one and the no-nonsense by-the-book one. This movie's central concept is the same, only with women in the starring roles. 

However, it succeeds on a level far beyond mere novelty; much of the credit for that success has to go to Bullock and McCarthy. The reason 'Lethal Weapon' is the gold standard is because of the easy antagonistic chemistry between Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Bullock and McCarthy capture the essence of that sort of relationship; the dynamic between them is great fun to watch. McCarthy's comedic bona fides are long established; she does more of the same here. Her fearlessness (both physically and verbally) lends itself to some hilarious moments. However, Bullock is an equal contributor; playing the straight man is incredibly difficult especially opposite a force of nature-type performer like McCarthy but Bullock definitely pulls it off.

The supporting cast does some fine work as well Bichir is good, while guys like Marlon Wayans ('A Haunted House'), Michael Rapaport (TV's 'The Mob Doctor'), Dan Bakkedahl (TV's 'Veep') and Michael McDonald (TV's 'Web Therapy') all contribute to some great scenes.

The film has its flaws - the story is a bit simplistic at times and the scores of f-bombs can be a little distracting but they tend to be swept away by the sheer force of McCarthy's and Bullock's performances.

'The Heat' is what it is. It's formulaic, but it's formulaic by design. The inversion of the standard cop movie trope is funny in its own right; adding the wonderful chemistry between McCarthy and Bullock just makes it all the more enjoyable. This movie is two hours of foul-mouthed fun.

3.5 out of 5


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