Sandra Bullock is a highly watchable actress and she seems like she’d be fun to hang out with — I have no idea why I think that; I just do — but, Jesus, how does she choose her movies? With a blindfold and pin? Sure, she won an Oscar for The Blind Side, during which she dragged around that poor black boy as if he were a tired old circus bear, and there was Speed and After You Were Sleeping, but The Proposal? Premonition? Speed 2? Two Weeks Notice? I suppose you think I’m going to add: ‘And now this?’ which I am, although not unreservedly. It’s not all bad. It’s possibly only half bad. Perhaps when she was poised with pin, the blindfold shifted? And she saw out of one eye, at least?
The Heat stars Ms Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as two cops — an FBI agent and a Boston detective — forced to work together, and appears to combine all the mainstream Hollywood formulas there are, or at least three: The Comedy Cop Movie; The Buddy Movie; The Rom-Com. And it follows the first law of each, which is: any two people who hate each other at the beginning must have bonded by the end. This rule will broker no exceptions in the same way, for example, the first law of horror movies brokers no exceptions, and dictates the first noise in the night must always be the cat. These laws are always strictly enforced, and should you break one? Straight to prison, I’m afraid, where, chances are, you’ll discover a scheming warden and at least one brutal guard, but may find respite in the library.
So, from the outset we have Sarah Ashburn (Ms Bullock) and Shannon Mullins (Ms McCarthy) who are, of course, complete opposites. They are opposites physically, as one is slim and beautiful with hair that does that flicky, flicky glossy thing, while the other is not thin and not beautiful and has hair that does that frizzy, frizzy bush thing. One dresses like a prim tax accountant, while the other dresses like a homeless Metallica fan. One is uptight and pedantic and by-the-book and arrogant, while the other goes at everything like a furious, potty-mouthed battering ram. And so on and so on and so on, probably until the end of time itself.
Now, here’s what makes the film so frustrating: the chemistry between the two actually works. The scenes they share are genuinely funny (mostly) and sometimes ace, which is what Ms Bullock must have glimpsed with the one eye. Ms Bullock, rather generously, plays the fall guy as Ms McCarthy employs her full physicality, and hurls herself about — although she’s at her best, actually, when required to be subtle — and there are some truly special moments. There’s a scene in a nightclub bathroom, to do with Spanx, that made me laugh out loud, and another in a bar, as they get increasingly drunk — without topless dancers in the background, as there would have to be if this were a male cop film — which, alas, ultimately reins itself in, but has genuine spark and energy. There’s the odd killer line, too. On learning that the Bullock character was once married, McCarthy mutters: ‘To a hearing man?’
But what Ms Bullock’s blinded eye didn’t see was all the rest, and there is so much of it. There’s a tedious, lazy drugs plot with attendant action set pieces, much signposting to the importance of friends and family, a whole bundle of misjudged violence plus an emergency tracheotomy scene that is as funny as, well, an emergency tracheotomy, and a lot less necessary. Plus it goes on and on and on, coming in at nearly 120 minutes, and I think you all know how I feel about that.
Directed by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) and written by Katie Dippold (Parks and Recreation), this is a disappointment as, ultimately, the stars’ chemistry just can’t see off the lazy, sloppy formulaic execution. A pity, but this is what happens, I guess, when you pick your projects with a blindfold and pin, and I don’t know if Ms Bullock is ever going to learn. Her next project? The Heat 2.