CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE HEAT (2013)
Review by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
MICHAEL ARRUDA: Listen, if you tell me the name of the guy you’re working for, I’ll give you an ice cream cone.
PRISONER: I’m not talking.
MA: How about an ice cream sundae? (Prisoner shakes his head) With extra hot fudge sauce. You like hot fudge sauce, right?…with a cherry on top?
(The door bursts open and L.L. SOARES enters wielding a chainsaw.)
L.L. SOARES: I’ll get this low-life to talk. Tell us who you’re working for, or I start removing body parts! (Revs up chainsaw.)
PRISONER: Yeah, right. Like you’re really going to use that thing.
LS: That’s not the answer I’m looking for. (Runs at table and brings chainsaw down upon the prisoner’s wrist, cutting off his hand. Blood spurts like a geyser)
PRISONER (screams): YEEEEE-OWWWWW! You just cut off my hand!!!
LS: That’s okay. You’ve still got another one. Start talking!
POLICE CAPTAIN (enters room): What the hell is going on in here? Who the hell are you guys? Who the hell let you in here?
(Cue quick drum solo, and LS, covered in blood, looks in camera and winks)
LS: We’re Cinema Knife Fighters.
(Cue funky theme music)
CAPTAIN: Someone call an ambulance! And someone arrest these two men for impersonating police officers!
MA: I wouldn’t do that if I were you. We’re just about to review a new movie. Perhaps you’d like to hear it.
CAPTAIN: Are you out of your friggin mind?
MA: We’re reviewing THE HEAT, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.
PRISONER: I wanted to see that. Was it any good?
MA: We’ll tell you right now. If you behave.
PRISONER: Captain, why don’t you pull up a chair?
CAPTAIN: Are you crazy? They just sawed off your hand!
PRISONER: I have another one. Plus, strangely, despite all the blood, I feel fine. And look (holds up stump), I’ve stopped bleeding.
LS: One of the perks of Cinema Knife Fight Land.
(CAPTAIN pulls up a chair and sits down)
CAPTAIN: Okay, but just for a minute.
MA: So, as I started to say, today on Cinema Knife Fight, we’re reviewing the new R-rated comedy, THE HEAT (2013), starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy, and directed by Paul Feig, the same guy who directed BRIDESMAIDS (2011).
CAPTAIN: I loved BRIDESMAIDS!
LS: Me, too.
MA: In THE HEAT, Sandra Bullock plays an uptight FBI agent named Ashburn who nobody in the department likes, and so her boss Hale (Demian Bichir) sends her to Boston to work a case, and if she does well, then he’ll talk to her about the promotion she desires.
In Boston, Ashburn crosses paths with an offbeat and crude Boston police officer Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) who nearly kills Ashburn when she questions her prisoner without permission. Of course, these two completely different women will eventually team up to work together to track down the villains in this one, drug dealers, specifically a mysterious drug lord whose identity remains a secret until the end.
Ashburn and Mullins eventually get along very well because they realize they’re both outcasts. It’s more obvious in Mullins’ case with her unconventional methods and her wacky abrasive family, but Ashburn shares a similar loner past. It’s revealed that Ashburn wasn’t popular in high school. In fact, the only people to sign her yearbook were teachers, and she was also a foster child.
LS (sniffs): Sad stuff.
MA: But the plot is secondary and unimportant in this movie, as it’s just an excuse to put Ashburn and Mullins in funny situations and make us laugh. And if you judge a comedy by how many laughs it gets, then I’d give THE HEAT high marks because I laughed throughout this movie, and I laughed a lot.
LS: I laughed. I wanted to laugh more. But we’ll get to that.
MA: For the second straight week in a row, I sat in a sold-out theater. Last week was WORLD WAR Z, and now this week THE HEAT. What’s going on? Are these movies that big of a draw, or are people out more because it’s summer? I don’t know. But I do know that last night’s audience was primarily women. There were a few men in the theater, but for the most part, I was surrounded by women laughing hysterically. Kinda like a nightmare I had once.
LS: Women laughing? Probably hit a little too close to home. Me, I dug it. Being surrounded by women. What’s not to like?
MA: Nothing, you goober! I was referring to the laughing part. I was making a joke at my own expense
LS: Oh? That was a joke?
MA: Ha, ha! Anyway, this brings me to an article I read earlier this year which talked about how the traditional “male audience” movies have struggled this year, films like BULLET TO THE HEAD (2013) starring Sylvester Stallone and THE LAST STAND (2013) starring Arnold Schwarzenegger tanked at the box office, while films geared more for women have been doing extremely well, and the article predicted that Hollywood would follow the money and make more films geared for women.
LS: I have an idea. Maybe the movies geared toward men were just lame?
MA: Last night’s audience certainly seemed to back this up. Which leads me to one question: alright, guys, where the hell are you spending all your time? Why aren’t you at the movies? I don’t want to see action movies go the route of the Western!
LS: The Western is making a comeback, if you haven’t noticed.
MA: It’s been “making a comeback” since the 1980s!
LS: And I saw a lot of men in my audience for THE HEAT. Sure, a lot of them were probably there because their girlfriends or wives dragged them to see it. But I’m sure some of them were there, like me, to enjoy the show. Screw demographics!
Hey, what is this, some kind of film theory course? Get back to the damn review!
MA: Anyway, that being said, I liked THE HEAT a lot. I thought the jokes pretty much all worked, and the performances were right on target. Melissa McCarthy is hilarious, and I can’t count how many laugh-out-loud moments she generated throughout the movie. There were just so many quick one-liners and tirades. The scene where she calls out her boss in front of Sandra Bullock comes to mind, completely humiliating the guy in front of the other officers in the precinct.
LS: Yeah, Captain Woods. I felt bad for that guy. He was played by Tom Wilson, by the way, who was good in the role.
MA: The movie also has more than enough jokes to make up for the fact that many of them were given away in the film’s trailers. There are still lots of funny parts in this movie, even if you’ve seen the trailer multiple times, as I did.
LS: Problem number one. Too many good jokes here were ruined by being played to death in the trailers. I would have laughed louder at these if I hadn’t already seen them a thousand times. One of the downsides of going to the movies every week—we see too many trailers too many times.
MA: I agree. But I thought there were enough other jokes in this movie that worked for it not to matter as much in this case.
Sandra Bullock is also very good in the straight role as Ashburn, and she generates lots of laughs as well. The scene with the choking restaurant victim where Ashburn attempts a tracheotomy on the guy and sticks a knife into his throat, as opposed to just performing the Heimlich maneuver, is a keeper. With scenes like this, the film definitely earns its R-rating.
LS: You thought that scene earned its R? Just a little blood? But it was funny stuff.
I thought the R-rating was for the friggin language. McCarthy, especially, has a vocabulary that includes non-stop swearing. It made me feel at home. Although you wouldn’t know it by this wimpy column. You still enforcing the “PG” language rule here?
MA: I thought it was PG-13 language? Which, by the way, we both agreed to.
I think our language here is in line with other professional movie reviewers.
(LS responds with a bunch of bleeps)
MA: There’s also a very funny sequence where they have to swipe a guy’s cell phone and put a bug inside it, which takes place in a crowded night club. The audience was on the floor laughing during this whole sequence. I also enjoyed the part where they get smashing drunk together.
LS: You mean the scene where they go to a seedy bar and get bombed out of their minds and do all kinds of wacky stuff? I loved that scene!
MA: The screenplay by Katie Dippold was hysterical. I was really impressed. THE HEAT is one of the funnier comedies I’ve seen in a while.
LS: Now here’s where we disagree. I thought Katie Dippold’s screenplay was kind of weak. Especially the drug dealer plot. It was obviously just there to give Bullock and McCarthy something to do, which is fine, but this movie could have been even funnier if they’d given it a better plot. Last time, Paul Feig worked with Kristen Wiig, who both starred in and wrote BRIDESMAIDS. Compared to Wiig’s script, Dippold’s is second-rate. What saves this movie is Bullock and McCarthy. They have real comedic chemistry together and transcend the weak script.
MA: You’re right. The drug dealer plot is lame. But the jokes work. I wouldn’t call that a weak script. Uneven, maybe, but again, I laughed a lot so I can’t say that I didn’t like the script. It was funny.
LS: The actresses were funny. I’m not convinced the script would have been as good without them. But yeah, uneven might be a better word.
MA: I also really enjoyed Mullins’ South Boston family, an insane group that makes Mark Wahlberg’s family in THE FIGHTER (2010) seem normal! It was a lot of fun to see Jane Curtin playing Melissa McCarthy’s mom. Curtin gets to deliver a couple of good zingers, like the first time we see her driving by in a car.
LS: I didn’t like her family as much as you. I didn’t care much for the clan in THE FIGHTER, either. They just seem like Boston stereotypes—what the rest of the country thinks we’re like here in Beantown. They just annoyed me.
MA: I disagree. There’s some truth to that stereotype. Ever sit in the bleachers at Fenway Park?
LS: It was nice to see Saturday Night Live veteran Curtin again—it’s been awhile since we’ve seen her onscreen—but she’s not given much screen time, and not much to do besides giving people the finger. I wish there was more of her, and less of her stereotypical brood. Although, a scene where the family meets Bullock for the first time, and she has no idea what they’re talking about when they ask her if she’s a “nahk,” was pretty funny.
MA: The main story in this one, about drug dealers, ran hot and cold. Michael McDonald makes a nice villain, and the scene where he sticks a knife into Bullock’s thigh is one of the movie’s best. It’s certainly its most intense. But McDonald’s not the main villain, and the whole story about the drug lord’s secret identity I could have done without, but this is nitpicking. I liked THE HEAT a lot.
LS: It’s not nitpicking. The main plot sucked. McDonald was good—I used to like him a lot on MAD TV—and he does a good job with his role. But the plot about his mysterious boss—I couldn’t have cared less.
I did like some of the other perps, though. Like Spoken Reasons as the drug dealer Rojas, who McCarthy constantly harasses. He was pretty funny. And I loved that Kaitlin Olson (Sweet Dee from the FX comedy series IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA) was in it as a Bulgarian prostitute. I love SUNNY so much, I love seeing cast members move up to bigger things. Y’know, Charlie Day is going to be in PACIFIC RIM.
MA: Michael Rapaport turns in a nice sympathetic performance as McCarthy’s brother, Jason.
LS: Yeah, I like Rapaport, too. I also liked Demian Bichir as McCarthy’s boss, Hale. He was great as drug lord Esteban Reyes on the Showtime series WEEDS—that’s where I first noticed him. Since then, he was the lawyer in SAVAGES (2012) and was even nominated for an Oscar for his role in a small film called A BETTER LIFE (2011). Bichir’s star seems to be on the rise, and I’m glad for him.
There’s also a good scene where McCarthy trades barbs with comedian Tony V. in the precinct (he’s the guy she yells at for letting them take her perp out of stir). Tony V is a Boston legend and it was great to see him here (I just wish he was in the movie more). Speaking of which, there are a lot of shots of Boston here, which was wicked cool for people who live here.
One joke that didn’t make me laugh as much was the whole “albino” thing. The DEA Agent Craig (Dan Bakkedahl), who happened to be an albino (the character, not the actor), was the butt of a lot of jokes, and I just didn’t laugh that much. I just didn’t “get” it, in a way. It seemed too forced.
MA: I didn’t get it either, but I did notice that early on in the movie, Sandra Bullock’s character is watching TV and she’s watching a scene from the movie FOUL PLAY (1978), starring Goldie Hawn, which featured an albino hit man. Maybe screenwriter Dippold has a thing for albinos.
LS: Yeah you’re right. I remember that scene, early on, where Bullock is channel surfing and she switched from FOUL PLAY to a scene from THE MATRIX RELAODED (2003) featuring the twin albino hit men from that movie, too. But I still don’t totally get the whole running joke.
MA: There’s another reason THE HEAT works so well. In addition to its being an over-the-top R-rated comedy, it has some genuine sincere bits. I bought into Melissa McCarthy’s pain when dealing with her own family, and I believed that Sandra Bullock’s Agent Ashburn was at her core a very lonely and unhappy person. And so, ultimately, I bought and believed in their relationship and their friendship. That doesn’t come off as being forced or phony.
I thought THE HEAT was a lot of fun, and a sold-out theater of laughing women seemed to agree with me.
I give it three knives. What did you think of it, LL?
LS: I liked it a lot, too, but I didn’t think it was perfect. The big plus here is the teaming of Bullock and McCarthy. McCarthy is on a roll since hitting the big time in Paul Feig’s last movie, BRIDESMAIDS. I remember her when she was Sookie the Chef, a supporting character on the TV series THE GILMORE GIRLS. Who knew back then she would become such a big star?
MA: You watched THE GIRLMORE GIRLS? (chuckles)
LS: Cut me some slack. I had a thing for Lauren Graham.
The point is, I’ve been a fan of McCarthy’s for a long time, and it just seems funny that she’s become such a big, bankable star so quickly.
As for Sandra Bullock, I never really liked her all that much. She just didn’t do anything for me, as a dramatic or comedic actress. I just didn’t care for her. But here, with McCarthy, I liked her a lot. It just goes to show that anyone can be good when given the right role. And the chemistry between these two ladies is dynamite. Whoever thought of teaming them up was a genius. The movie works because their teaming works. It actually reminded me of the classic straight man/comic teams from the past like Abbott and Costello. It’s a winning formula, and it’s nice to see them carry on the tradition.
And yes, they both have a lot of heart, too.
I also love that this one has so much “foul language” in it. I know there are people who think clean comedy is better and that resorting to four-letter words is just the sign of a bad script, but I’m not one of those people. I think a lot of swearing can make a funny movie even funnier. I love the English language, all of it, and that includes the wonderful world of cursing.
McCarthy and Bullock are so good, they make a lackluster script look better than it is. I still say that with a stronger plot, this movie could have been even funnier. The script was the only weak spot for me. That and the lame albino jokes.
MA: And you didn’t care for McCarthy’s family.
LS: Yeah, that too.
MA: And I thought we agreed the script is uneven, not weak.
LS: Okay, okay.
Which just shows that every movie has flaws. And yet, I have to be honest, I laughed a lot during this movie, and I thought scenes like Bullock and McCarthy getting drunk all night at a dive bar were comedy gold. I want to see more of these two together. They’re a great comedy team.
I give it three knives as well.
MA: This summer has been a lot better than normal so far.
LS: Yeah, it hasn’t been half bad.
(PRISONER tries to clap, but can’t with just one hand).
CAPTAIN: Are you guys done? We need the interrogation room and you’ve been in here awhile.
PRISONER: What about me?
LS: Oh, you’re free to go. We don’t have any evidence to hold you. You were just here to make the scene seem authentic. Thanks for that.
PRISONER: I was just here for the scene, and you cut my friggin hand off!
CAPTAIN (picks up hand): Don’t worry, son. We’ll pack this in ice and the hospital will stitch it back on and you’ll be good as new.
PRISONER: He cut off my friggin hand!
LS: Oh stop whining, you big baby.
MA: Looks like we’ve solved another case. Which is just how we roll, because, we’re the Cinema Knife Fighters.
(Funky THEME MUSIC plays again as MA and LS pose)
CAPTAIN: Get out of here, you idiots!
MA: We’re going; we’re going.
© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives THE HEAT ~ three knives!
LL Soares gives THE HEAT ~three knives, too!