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Opposite,But Complementary

The director of Bridesmaids succeeds in reinventing this buddy cop action film as an all-woman affair

Written by Shalini Langer | Published: June 29, 2013 3:47:32 am

The Heat

DIRECTOR: Paul Feig

CAST: Sandra Bullock,Melissa McCarthy,Michael Rapaport

***1/2

The director of Bridesmaids succeeds in reinventing this buddy cop action film as an all-woman affair,and that’s by turning as unsparing an eye on them as they do on each other. So Bullock’s upright,awkward Ashburn feels as natural as McCarthy’s crude,over-the-top,vulgar Mullins,and not because they are required to be thus for their characters.

Ashburn is an FBI special agent from New York,not liked by her colleagues for being way better than them and rubbing that in,despite herself. Mullins is a detective of the Boston Police,unpopular again because she doesn’t let go an opportunity to tell her more incompetent fellow workers what she thinks of them.

When the twain meet,you can expect the expected,as seen in countless movies,from Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop to Bad Boys and Rush Hour. What lends it freshness is how unrestrained Feig lets his women characters be,allowing them to be middle-aged successful careerists who needn’t be the best-preserved or the best-looking or the best-dressed or the best-pleasers around.

If Mullins can curse and cuss anyone under the table,and use brute physical violence — female organs from cervix to areola are freely discussed,as are the marvels of Spanx — Ashburn is unapologetically un-effeminate to survive in what is essentially a man’s world.

They also bring crackling chemistry,a lack of which would have sunk this film. Both Bullock and McCarthy are talented and physically unselfconscious comedians,and that helps everything,whether they are jostling to enter a door together or trying to out-think each other on clues. That one scene where they bumble through a nightclub dance trying to plant a bug in a gangster’s phone is hilarious in the way it is executed in glorious confusion. At the same time,both Bullock and McCarthy are talented actresses,and so when the heavy scenes come on,they manage to balance the same without it all becoming very maudlin.

Feig does fall back on cliches where Mullins teaches Ashburn to loosen up,especially in the way she wears her corporate suits — though there is something to be also said about how she zips out that FBI ID — and there is the requisitory drunken binge which ends with Ashburn giving away her car to an unknown guy. But in what shows respect to his characters,Feig lives true to them,not trying to change them in any way. While developing a friendship,Mullins and Ashburn remain themselves.

One just wishes that McCarthy finds a role that goes beyond this tough-talking,cursing persona that’s getting stuck to her. It’s unkind the way the film has her drop down a fence chasing a criminal,a joke that’s only meant to work because of her girth. McCarthy has found a way to revel in it,but surely that says nothing for filmmakers’ laziness not to see beyond it.

shalini.langer@expressindia.com

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