Wednesday, July 10, 2013

THE HEAT (2013)

After striking gold in the crude yet warm-hearted BRIDESMAIDS, director Paul Feig and star Melissa McCarthy return to the crass comedy well with this sporadically funny but overlong female buddy cop movie. Despite an impressive success rate, FBI agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) rubs colleagues the wrong way with her strict adherence to procedure and a know-it-all confidence. Supervisor Hale (Demian Bichir) transfers her to Boston to apprehend a drug kingpin, with the hope that she may learn people skills by interacting with local law enforcement. Enter foul-mouthed force of nature Detective Mullins (McCarthy), a tough native who follows her instinct wherever it may lead (usually into chaos) to the resignation of her demoralized sad sack Captain Woods (Thomas F. Wilson). Of course these polar opposites must team up in the investigation, and of course both will come to like and respect each other before the end credits role. Katie Dippold’s script leans heavily on the gender switch concept and finds little else that’s fresh. The story is meager, and the characters are mere sketches filled in perfunctorily by a game cast. In his previous feature, director Feig paced his film and shaped each scene to perfection. Here he attempts to bolster the thin script with improvisation, and the results are decidedly mixed. In scene after shapeless scene the gifted McCarthy seems to have been given free rein to embellish dialogue. But her riffs miss more than they hit, and the pace drags. It comes to a standstill during the unfunny Mullins family scenes, noisy nadirs that waste the talents of Jane Curtin and Michael Rapaport, among others. Furthermore Feig fails to maintain a consistent tone, with the humor lurching from the bellicose to the heartfelt to the violent. (Want to see a tracheotomy played for laughs? This is your movie.) Although Bullock makes an amiable foil for McCarthy, her evolution from straight-laced agent to rebellious rogue fails to convince. However, Michael McDonald’s subtle, knowing turn as sadistic villain Julian proves the axiom forgotten by too many actors and filmmakers nowadays. Less is more.

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