Hollywood loves to produce a ‘buddy-cop’ film and follow a predictable and finely-tuned method for how it should play out.
That explains why it’s taken this long to tilt a formulaic police comedy into a production that can hold two women as the driving force. But, it’s been worth the wait.
While The Heat doesn’t exactly explore new terrain in the buddy-action formula – two career-focused law enforcement officials with differing personalities attempt to catch the bad guys – plot contrivances are willingly overlooked as this film does more than pass the Bechdel Test, it crushes it with Melissa McCarthy’s furious comedic rants.
Paul Feig’s film brings together two of Hollywood’s most bankable female film stars. The combined talent of Sandra Bullock (Sarah Ashburn) and McCarthy (Shannon Mullins) prove that women can be funny without relying on themes of romance, weight and all those other ‘girlie’ tropes to get the job done.
Mullins, the loud-mouthed and aggressive Boston police detective, and Ashburn, the socially inept, by-the-book FBI agent, are partnered together to work in a law enforcement world dominated by misogynistic attitudes and sexism. But they are not merely women dropped in a male setting, they fight hard to prove their abilities as women, and their ultimate triumph is not a swooping male hero, but rather in their capacity to surpass and outplay the men.
It’s brash, sexually perverse and just a little bit gross, and it’s all tied together with the seamless chemistry between McCarthy and Bullock. McCarthy is hilarious, precise in her ability to intensify and outplay any lazy comedic moment. The Heat successfully channels her instincts, appropriating the machismo of the male cops who feature in other buddy-cop films in her crude delivery, while Bullock plays along well, revelling in her past of rom-com starring roles to charm her way alongside McCarthy.
The fact that the gender of the stars is not inconsequential to the film’s success feels like Hollywood may slowly be shedding its gender bias. The Heat doesn’t break ground but its selling point does, and it’s about time.