The buddy cop genre has been dominated by men for decades, and there hasn’t been a female buddy film for a very long time. Movies like The Bridesmaids don’t count because the plot centers on friends and finding love. A true buddy movie is about the characters and what they do with the friendship growing out of their interactions. Riggs and Murtaugh didn’t start out as friends in Lethal Weapon (1987). They were cops first and how they worked together became the foundation of their friendship. The Heat is in a similar vein as Lethal Weapon: two officers of the law have to put aside their differences to solve a case. Many might doubt two women can carry a buddy cop movie, but leads Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy not only bring the heat, they also bring the funny, carrying the film all the way to the finish line.
Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is one of the best in the F.B.I., but her colleagues don’t like her because she can be arrogant and smug. Ashburn is intelligent, and she is not afraid to flaunt her skills and her accomplishments to the point of annoyance. Ashburn follows the manual and is very by the book, showing her disappointment when her fellow agents don’t know proper hand signals. Detective Shannon Mullins (McCarthy) is brash, intuitive, and blunt. She drops F-bombs as easily as perps. Mullins uses unique tactics. When we first meet Mullins, she is staking out an area with prostitutes. A man pulls up. Mullins gets his wallet and cell phone and calls his wife, telling her where he is. She then drags him out of the car through the window before arresting him.
Bringing the two together is the hunt for a ruthless drug lord whose favorite method of killing is chopping his victims into pieces. Ashburn and Mullins clash right from the beginning. They interrogate, or interview as Ashburn puts it, differently. Ashburn believes sugar is best, and Mullins throws books at suspects and threatens a man’s genitals by playing Russian roulette. While their bickering is a good source of humor, the hilarity ramps up once they start to trust each other and work together. In the nightclub, after Mullins fixes Ashburn’s wardrobe, they have to plant a bug in a guy’s cell phone. To get to the guy, Ashburn has to dance, but the guy is surrounded by other women. Ashburn’s awkward dance moves and Mullins picking up women to make a path for Ashburn begins to show how the two can work together and be funny at the same time. The nightclub scene is just the beginning of how hilarious the two are as a team. The momentum builds from there to one of the most entertaining bar scenes ever and to an ending full of bullets and humorous antics.
The comedy stems from their work tactics and jabs at their personalities. None of the jokes are cheap, and the funny never slows down the action or takes you out of the story. All of the comedy organically springs from the characters and their situations. I was impressed by the lack of fat jokes and the running gag of Mullins’ love life. She is a “love ’em and leave ‘em” type, and her exes want to know why she never called them back. It was refreshing to see romance in the background (there is some flirting between Ashburn and Marlon Wayans’ Agent Levy) and to watch two women be well-rounded, fully realized people. Bullock and McCarthy carry the film equally, and their relationship develops naturally. We finally have the makings of a potential franchise built on the shoulders of two outstanding leading women. The Heat has plenty of guns and gags, and the film is one of the best, and funniest, buddy cop films I’ve seen in a long time.