Movie review: The Heat

By Barney McDonald

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The wheels of Hollywood keep churning out the fodder for the multiplexes, which invariably means a limited array of actors playing versions of the same roles they always take to the bank.

Although it's a change to see a female buddy movie in which the gals shoot guns, drive really fast and cuss like sailors, The Heat falls well short of the cultural phenomenon of Thelma & Louise. Instead, Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy step up as an unlikely team of fastidious FBI agent and rough-as-guts cop. The punchlines roll thick and fast, with a surprising underbelly of grit to the story and characters. But it's still mutton dressed as lamb which, in the case of Detective Shannon Mullins, played by McCarthy, is as unappetising as it sounds.

With the questionable exception of her Oscar-winning role in The Blind Side, Bullock has the range of a Belarusian shotputter who isn't on steroids. She plays the same awkward, geeky, annoying character in all her films. The Heat is no exception, and Special Agent Sarah Ashburn may be her most irritating role yet. McCarthy is genuinely funny, especially in 2011's Bridesmaids, yet her character in this film is simply a reworking of her role as Diana/Dawn in Identity Theft from earlier this year.

Surely audiences deserve more?

Debut screenwriter Katie Dippold was inspired by the buddy cop genre, in particular, Running Scared and Lethal Weapon. Both those movies were dated when they came out in the 1980s. The Heat will fare even worse. Simply switching gender isn't enough to enliven a genre or a story. If this wasn't a comedy, it might have more purpose. Instead, it's a laughable attempt to solicit laughs that falls flat on its proverbial face. So why is it making money?

Stars: 1/5
R13; 117 mins; Out now

- Herald on Sunday

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