Having cut her teeth on the cult TV sitcom Parks and Recreation, first-time feature writer Katie Dippold lucked out when Bridesmaids director Paul Feig fell in love with the first draft of her spec script for The Heat. And she lucked out big-time when Feig leveraged the box-office success of his début feature to cast Sandra Bullock and Bridesmaids break-out star Melissa McCarthy as seriously mis-matched buddies in this affectionate, female-inflected pastiche of 80s cop movies such as 48 Hrs. and Lethal Weapon.
Bullock's tight-arsed New York FBI agent is essentially a loose variation on her Miss Congeniality character, Gracie Hart: a book-smart professional with no friends, no family, no boyfriend and both eyes on a potential promotion, Sarah Ashburn is not a team player. Sent to Boston to investigate some gangland murders, the arrogant Ashburn sparks an explosive clash of wills when she tries to steamroller her Irish working class partner Shannon Mullins, a loud-mouthed local gal with street smarts, a fridge full of weapons and an intimate knowledge of her jealously-guarded home turf.
Police work initially takes a back seat as the two determined women go head-to-head: Ashburn likes getting inside the criminal's heads; Mullins would rather crack them open. So, naturally, there's a bonding scene in a blue collar Boston-Irish bar, in which Ashburn gets roaring drunk and busts some ill-advised dance moves with the hard-drinking Mullins. After which, they see one another in a different light.
Feig makes no secret of the fact that he prefers broad, physical humour to clever, wordy comedy, so there's nothing subtle about the violent slapstick action or rude jokes: Mullins' graphic description of Ashburn's neglected nether-regions is a case in point. Like Mullins herself, The Heat is initially hard to warm up to, as it tries too hard to establish its belligerent bolshiness and take-no-prisoners crudity; but like Mullins the film is ultimately both extremely funny and undeniably loveable.
Engagingly acted character comedy takes precedence over the nominal action-comedy plot, which involves the usual mysterious crime kingpin and the whereabouts of a big shipment of drugs. One might almost see this as an unconventional love story: two female cops, both in their own way ostracised misfits, start out hating one another, but gradually realise that they have complementary skill-sets and quite a lot in common. And while their contrasting characters are learning to get along, Bullock and McCarthy get to swear up a storm and kick some criminal butt.