Monday, March 17, 2014

DVD of the Week: The Heat

Usually, when I do one of these reviews, I try and grab a copy of the movie poster, or DVD cover to put up as a headline image, because, well, that seems like a sensible thing to do. You may only be dimly aware of any given movie, especially a year after it came out, but the posters tend to act as a visual reminder of the film, and who was in it. In the case of The Heat, it's also a reminder of how ridiculously dumbass Hollywood posters are getting in relation to women in the age of Photoshop, because according to most versions of the poster this films stars Sandra Bullock and who-the-hell-is-that-supposed-to-be-because-it-sure-ain't-Melissa-McCarthy. 

The Heat does, of course, star Melissa McCarthy as one half of the odd-couple central pair, playing the loud-mouthed, by any means necessary street cop to Sandra Bullock's uptight, career focused fed. We're instantly into familiar territory here, as at first they hate each other, then grudgingly respect each other, then bond, get kicked off the case and have to go it alone to nail down the bad guys. They have put-upon bosses, messy family lives and last minute betrayals. Yes, it's every cop-buddy-action-comedy since forever, but with women. 

It's a sad fact that taking a very stock example of the genre, and gender-swapping it can make The Heat feel a lot fresher and inventive than it actually is. Many of the jokes are literally just swapped over - jokes about Dicks becoming jokes about Vaginas, for instance, written and delivered pretty much the same as you would with male characters. And there's a lot of those, as well as a barrage of f-bombs that again, you more often find in Hollywood output aimed at the male half of it's audience. You've even got a carry-over of uptight Bullock's character's low-level and awkward flirting with one of her male co-workers which you could flip back without changing anything in the dialogue but pro-nouns. 

That said, it works. It shouldn't feel fresh to see women going through this sort of story and acting like - for want of a better phrase - normal people, but actually it does. You really don't get to see women up on the big screen in these sorts of roles very often, far less than you should, especially in scatological action capers and if The Heat proves anything its that you should, McCarthy and Bullock may both be doing roles they've done before but they do them well, and have a lot of chemistry together. The jokes may be familiar but they're funny and well delivered. 

Finally, its a film that also doesn't wear it's gender swapping on it's sleeve. There is on;y one overtly misogynist character, and he's widely disliked by the rest of the cast for it, and most of the rest of the time the script makes little reference to the leads genders. It's there in the subtext - most of the authority figures are male, as well as the main villains - but by and large these are female characters treated by the script as people, rather than prizes to the won or objects to be rescued. For this sort of film that's stupidly rare, and for all the cliches that The Heat plays with, that one change makes it worthy of notice.