Recently, I saw The Lost City, which starred Sandra Bullock. Seeing her in a comedy/action film reminded me of a different film of hers that I enjoy called The Heat (2013). My, how things have changed since 2013. Of course, there are a lot of comparisons between the two films, other than the presence of Sandra Bullock. As such, it is not her that has changed so much as her co-star Melissa McCarthy. It appears that her early comedic career focused on using her weight to get laughs. Age and experience have taught me to not be comfortable with such performances. Such actors and actresses use their physicality to elicit laughter, yet off camera they do what they can to lose the pounds. This brand of comedy, it seems to me, is a soft form of fat shaming. I applaud McCarthy, because she appears to making a career for herself after getting down to a more manageable waste line. That has been hard for some.
It is the first leading lady discussed in this review of The Heat, who plays Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agent Sarah Ashburn, that starts off the proceedings. She is at the head of a group of agents that are raiding a drug den on the outskirts of New York City. There is one problem: none of her co-workers like her. She has a reputation of being a know-it-all, never tires of talking about how she single-handedly took down a killer, and cannot pass up an opportunity to point out the things they missed during their sweep of the house. As a result, her superior, Hale (Demián Bichir), sends her to the Boston office to investigate a growing drug ring, led by a mysterious person known simply as Larkin. We then get to meet her eventual, unexpected partner, Boston Police detective, Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy). Where Sarah is all about following rules, Shannon is not above doing things the rough way to bring criminals to justice. Case in point, as she is about to bring in a man (Tony Hale) caught soliciting a prostitute, she also chases down a local drug dealer Terrell Rojas (Spoken Reasons). Terrell happens to be the first person Sarah seeks to interview, and inadvertently takes Shannon’s parking spot in front of the precinct. She then goes in to interrogate Terrell, which is another big no-no to Shannon. Their confrontation leads to Sarah attempting to use her status as a federal officer, and Shannon not caring. Not even Captain Woods (Thomas F. Wilson), Shannon’s boss, can calm her down. Shannon ends up stealing Sarah’s file because she is dedicated to stopping crime in her area. Sarah tracks Shannon down to a local bar, and an uneasy truce is formed between them. It is cemented when Hale orders Sarah to work with Shannon, despite Sarah’s suggestion that Shannon is mentally unstable. After all, Sarah’s conversation with her superior happens while Shannon is pointing a gun at her. It also takes place outside of a supplier for the drugs, a person of Eastern European persuasion named Tatiana Krumova (Kaitlin Olson). They find Tatiana rather disagreeable to their questions, but they do notice a cigarette butt in the ashtray that does not match Tatiana’s. With a bit of misdirection, they are able to get it and hand it to Levy (Marlon Wayans), one of the agents at the Boston bureau, for analysis. The results point them to a nightclub manager they believe to have a connection to Larkin. In order to prove it, they manage to slip a bug into his cell phone while blending in at the establishment. Their activities, though, are witnessed by two Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents, who order them off the case. As they do so, Shannon notices her newly released from prison brother, Jason (Michael Rapaport), on the surveillance footage inside the club, which to her suggests that he is up to no good. In any case, their next lead takes them to a paint factory where they apprehend Julian Vincent (Michael McDonald), who they question about Larkin. When he ends up escaping, and thanks to Jason’s meddling, it puts the Mullins family in danger. This point is driven home when a tip Jason gives Sarah and Shannon ends up not being a drug shipment, and Jason is put in the hospital. Shannon blames Sarah for pushing Jason to be an informant, and their night of bonding in the bar goes by the wayside. Furthermore, the DEA has decided to take a more hands-on role in the Larkin investigation, and Hale takes Sarah off the case. Not wanting to give up, Sarah makes amends with Shannon, and together they arm themselves from Shannon’s arsenal and go back to the factory after learning from Terrell that Larkin is to be in that location. Despite their efforts, they are captured, and come to find out that DEA agent Adam (Taran Killam) has been their target all along. Furthermore, Larkin is going to the hospital to finish off Jason. Our heroes manage to free themselves and make it to the hospital in time to stop Larkin, shooting him in a rather awful place in the process. With their friendship cemented, Sarah agrees to stay on in Boston, and she looks forward to again teaming up with Shannon.
There are a lot of jokes in The Heat, and not all of them involve McCarthy’s dress size. It is hard to explain them all, but there is a sequence that I think works well from a Catholic perspective. When Jason gets out of jail, one of the first things he does is visits his family. They have a celebration for him the night after Shannon spots him in the nightclub. There is tension for Shannon because she is the one responsible for putting Jason in jail, and her mother and siblings resent her for it. The comedy is supposed to be in the stereotypical Boston Irish behavior, with everyone dropping their “r’s” and generally acting obnoxious. This is not the only aspect of these proscribed behaviors that is supposed to be funny. The family also has a painting of Jesus in a Boston Red Sox uniform hitting a homerun out of Fenway Park. Later, they present Shannon with a dunking Jesus in Boston Celtics attire, and a slap-shotting Jesus done up as a member of the Boston Bruins. I like to think God has a bit of levity to Him. There is the old saying, after all, that we plan and God laughs. Some of my favorite images of Jesus are of Him full of mirth. I have to confess, though, that my antenna goes up when I see pictures like the ones in the film. I would not say they are necessarily sacrilegious, but I worry about them as symbols of a growing distrust in Faith. Our relationship with God should be taken seriously, and while I think there are worse images than of Jesus in sports gear, I could also do without them. Luckily, they are not a major part of the movie.
The Heat does have some parts that are bloody, full of innuendo, and vulgar, but nothing too over-the-top. There is a heart to it as well, while also maintaining a light-hearted feel throughout, if that makes sense. It is a strange thing to say because the movie definitely earns its R rating, but it does not have a lot of the expected material. If you are in the mood for a little comedy after the kids go to bed, you can do worse.