FBI Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) has a nose for crime and can wheedle out information and the location of illegal drugs wherever she seeks them. She's very good at this, but not so strong at interpersonal relationships, being widely disliked by her fellow agents, yet she shrugs it off safe in the knowledge of a job well done, such as the serial killer she helped to track down a while back. Meanwhile, cop Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) is at the opposite end of the law enforcement spectrum; she doesn't break the law, but she does bend it to get those criminals she sees fit to arrest, though like Ashburn she is not the favourite among her colleagues. And when they met...
Well, when they met it was a recipe for a pretty large box office success, though one which failed to tickle the funny bone of everyone who saw it, leaving a real love it or hate it comedy. While it was not as great as its champions would claim, it was not as terrible as the detractors would have it, settling somewhere in the middle ground of a little tedious but with the occasional big laugh to be gained should you persevere with it. Really, it was sticking to the buddy movie template to concentrate on the rarely seen female buddy relationship, often at the expense of the plot which came across as perfunctory at best, a hook to hang the frequently improvised gags on at worst.
Improvisation in this case meant everyone fell back on the "it's clever to swear" cliché, littering their dialogue with much effing and blinding to turn the air blue, which if you thought was hilarious, then you would be in seventh heaven here. McCarthy seemed to have been instructed to play this as coarsely as possible, while Bullock the opposite so we could appreciate the chalk and cheese, slob versus snob construction that harked back to the nineteen-eighties, only applying the strong language of select thrillers to a comedy, you know, like Midnight Run had succeeded with back in the later years of the decade. You imagined director Paul Feig was a fan of that particular movie.
Not that The Heat was slavish in its appropriation of the trappings of buddy comedies of that vintage, screenwriter Katie Dippold added sufficient quirks of her own to reassure the audience this was something new and not a carbon copy (to use an eighties term), much of which rested on the novelty of Bullock in an R-rated comedy. If she had played the foul-mouthed cop and McCarthy the uptight agent, you could see this would have been much the same, since they were both capable of fulfilling those roles with ease, but it did leave the sense of a lack of imagination when it unfolded much as you would expect, with even the twist reveal of the drug dealer villain not a massive shock. We were stuck in a land of exaggeration, with broad acting and sweary jokes, which might have been enough for some.
Indeed, it was, although the audience appeared to be split between those who assuredly laughed at the antics and those who were here because of curiosity since it had turned into a hit, had subsequently clutched their handbags at the bad taste on display. Though this was more or less a two woman show, the supporting cast, many seasoned comic performers, followed the stars' lead and delivered stylings you could see from the International Space Station, such was their lack of subtlety, yet this was all in the spirit of the piece. Every so often in this morass of bits that needed better refining and its reluctance to keep as much of this in as they possibly could, regardless of its quality, you would chuckle, the most amusing scene being the most superfluous, as Ashburn tries to assist a choking victim but makes a bad choice, but it was a shapeless affair resembling some kind of law enforcement sketch revue strictly for grown-ups yet containing juvenile humour. Music by Michael Andrews.