A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
There's a scene in "The Heat" in which two people, FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) and Boston police detective Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), struggle with one another to be the first to open a door. It has already been established that Mullins resents the snooty interference of an FBI outsider into her case. We also know that Ashburn has problems getting along with, well, anyone. Ashburn and Mullins are forced to work together to bring down a Boston drug kingpin, or something like that — it doesn't matter — and for the majority of the film they bicker over whose case it is, whose interrogation style to follow, who knows more about the background intel.
All of that comes to comedic fruition in a lingering slapstick scene of the two women in a death-grip with the door, unable to move forward, unable to retreat, both willing to look completely foolish in order to be the first one through that door. Director Paul Feig (who helmed "Bridesmaids") knows his way around slapstick moments such as this one. He is confident that the event being filmed is funny and worth watching, so he stands back, points the camera, and lets the actresses go to it. It's a very funny bit of physical comedy, deeply logical (neither character can bear to be "second" in anything) and yet deeply illogical (who cares who goes through the door first?).
It's a pleasure to watch a film that is confident in what it is. Yes, it's a cop-buddy film, and of course there is a case to be solved. But nobody cares about the familiarity of the premise. You get the sense that Paul Feig doesn't care either. The Boston-drug-lord-plot is merely the architecture on which to present the dynamic of the two main characters. Their dynamic is consistently humorous, entertaining, often cringe-inducingly awkward, and, occasionally deep. The pace of the film is uneven, and the big plot-points are presented so casually that you can almost feel how bored everyone is by having to spend time on them, but Bullock and McCarthy make a phenomenal team. The conversation never stops. The arguments never stop. You can forgive a lot if a film shows you watchable, interesting characters.
Sarah Ashburn lives alone, is a workaholic, and kidnaps the neighbor's cat periodically in order to get some affection. She is gunning for a promotion at the FBI. Her boss tells her she needs to work on her people skills, and as a test he sends her up to Boston to try to bring down a drug kingpin. Working with the local agencies has been a problem for Ashburn, who strides around so arrogantly that she has to be told no less than five times in one scene that she is going the wrong way. On the other side of the spectrum sits Boston Detective Mullins, wearing a Paw Sox T-shirt (a perfect detail), and wreaking havoc amongst neighborhood thugs and small-time drug dealers and prostitutes. The rest of the department lives in fear of her, and within two seconds of spending time with Mullins you can see why.