25 July 2013

Movie Review: The Heat


C+

The Heat 
2013, 120mins, 15
Director: Paul Feig
Writer (s): Katie Dippold 
Cast includes: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Marlon Wayans, Michael Rapaport, Jane Curtin
UK Release Date: 31st July 2013

In 2011 Paul Feig became a Hollywood hit-maker with his menagerie of muliebral madness “Bridesmaids”, a feature that scored vast amounts of kudos at the box-office and even nabbed notable awards consideration at the 2012 Academy shindig. Working from a script by Kristen Wiig, “Bridesmaids” was a female-centric spin on a usually male occupied genre, throwing a bunch of unlikely chicks together for a messily edited compilation of pre-marital shenanigans. I appreciate the picture means a great deal to some, and I can’t begin to argue with its lucrative legacy, but ultimately in the wake of increasing hype “Bridesmaids” left me a little cold when I first encountered it on a balmy summer afternoon in 2011. It nabbed sparing giggles, but fundamentally the film felt like it received a free pass from movie goers, reacting positively toward its devotion to the fairer sex, forgiving its patchier film-making facets as a result. For a start “Bridesmaids” is desperately in need of an unprejudiced session in an editing suite; by its conclusion the movie hits a repetitious gag formula, wearily pulling its bloated carcass over an obscenely delayed finish line. I wasn’t repulsed by the film- heck, I was mildly entertained- but the fact of the matter is “Bridesmaids” has no business being heralded as any sort of contemporary classic.

Now Feig is back, and he’s doing for the buddy cop sub-genre what he attempted with “bachelor party” style theatrics two years ago. He’s feminised it right up, even recruiting old buddy in knee-slapping crime Melissa McCarthy to help ease the transition. The results are the same. If I took one thing from “The Heat” it’s that somebody should probably inform Feig he doesn’t have to use every single little innocuous piece of footage he shoots in the final cut. Edit the damn thing man!

Agent Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is loathed by her underlings, yet her savvy detective skills have landed her with the chance of a big promotion. Sent to Boston in order to prove her worth, Ashburn is tasked with bringing down a drug kingpin, paired with fiery Detective Mullins (Melissa McCarthy) to crack the case. Needless to say the varying tactics utilized by consummate professional Ashburn and “Bull in China Shop” Mullins don’t always sync, leading the duo on a route of sleuthing uncertainty and unlikely friendship.

Sounds revelatory, right?

I ask you this. Is justifying the reuse of hackneyed old storytelling on the basis of gender diversity not sexism in action? That’s the only reason “The Heat” appears to exist, in order to subsidise the female portion of the population for all the formulaic genre pap NOT aimed at their gender over the last 50 years of cinema. The plot is a barely there amalgamation of clich├ęs and skits, some of the latter amusing, but none of the former excusable. There are no surprises here, and not only does Feig topple back on every procedural benchmark in the storytelling arsenal, he also finds time to repeat them to egregious effect. There’s a genuinely funny sequence in which McCarthy dresses Bullock so she won’t draw attention to herself in a nightclub. It’s snappy, profane and demonstrates the sound synergy between the performers. It provides a host of good laughs, and a sensible film-maker would know to move on, push the narrative forward and derive the next dollop of humour from elsewhere. But no. Feig stretches the nightclub angle to punishing effect, getting lost in fits of spastic slapstick and goofy grinding, succumbing to Bullock’s sleepiest facial gesticulating and McCarthy’s sporadically witless grasp of improvisation. Both actresses are generally quite decent in “The Heat”- hell in a few scenes McCarthy’s an absolute joy- but at this specific juncture the mirth’s exhausted. Yet Feig plugs away, drawing the movie’s languorous pace out further, sucking some of the glee derived from the earlier, jocose material.  It’s just a single example of “The Heat” hanging around for far longer than it should, and more troublingly highlighting its hollow gender fuelled justification. Is it okay to assume that because girls don’t usually take front and centre in these genre diversions, their mere presence validates sedate writing and a moronic over-extension of pratfalls? To me, that’s an insult and rings excruciatingly hollow.

I did laugh. More than a few times in fact. However the moderate bursts of comedic generosity are only a nice distraction, never salvaging the feature’s major issues. Bullock and McCarthy make a fine team (although McCarthy should ease up on the Pro Plus Caffeine School of Acting), and yes I realise they’re GIRLS. Very funny GIRLS. But just because they’re GIRLS doesn't give the creators of “The Heat” license to tie up their feature using a dry, drab and entirely predictable narrative. It also doesn't explain why Paul Feig sees fit to have an hour of workable material stretched to the point of nauseating fatigue, finally shutting its mouth at the 120 minute mark. So here’s an idea. In the spirit of storytelling dexterity, female celebration and my sanity; Mr. Feig should hire a GIRL to precisely cut his next effort. Maybe a woman’s touch will help keep it below the old 90 minute mark , eh buddy?

 A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013


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