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The Heat: a gender-bending winner

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It’s been a rough few months (centuries? millenia?) for the female of the species. Australia’s first woman PM was ousted from office, Charles Saatchi was snapped choking wife Nigella Lawson, and republicans are already undoing the heroic work of State Senator Wendy Davis to stop Texas’s proposed anti-abortion law.

But one arena where women continue to break phenomenal ground is in Hollywood comedy. It’s hardly The West Wing, I know, but it’s highly refreshing to see a cop buddy comedy with two female leads. The Heat pits Melissa McCarthy’s foul-mouthed lout schtick up against Sandra Bullock’s tried-and-tested, prudish straight-person to phenomenal comedic effect.

Bullock has been remarkably quiet since the turn of the decade, and it’s nice to see her back on form maximising the utility of her comedic chops. She plays FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn, an incredibly proficient if socially stunted investigator. She’s coerced by her boss to take an assignment in Boston, buddied with a local detective to take down a drug cartel shipping into Beantown. McCarthy plays the boorish Detective Mullins, a rough-as-guts Irish-American with a deep love for her family and neighbourhood.

The plot is, frankly, forgettable, but who cares when a movie is this funny? McCarthy demonstrated in Bridesmaids and Identity Thief that she will take on any gag, no matter how outrageously filthy or violent, to get a laugh – and good on her. Her Detective Mullins is effectively the same character she played in Identity Thief, but with a slightly different accent – but again, who cares?

This flick is a kick in the guts to the accusation that “chicks just aren’t funny” and represents a resurgence of type-driven comedy not seen since the golden years of Chevy Chase or John Belushi.

A warning – this movie doesn’t pull any punches. Profanity, violence, and pointless and botched ghetto surgery abound in a Massachusetts so self-consciously dedicated to maximising laughs that you can never be sure what’s coming next.

The Heat seems to be part of a broader movement against the wordy art-house indie comedy that infested the 2000s with vintage dresses and wry ennui. We’re arcing back toward the two-dimensional comedy of Lucille Ball or Animal House, wherein a world is constructed for the sole purpose of facilitating jokes – and I am loving it, especially in a culture that is allowing us to push beyond and subvert the more irritating gender archetypes to which actors and writers were chained. Roll on ye purveyors of gender-bending lowbrow slapstick.

And womenfolk: if you’re in the mood to watch Sandra Bullock shoot a guy in the dick, and I don’t blame you if you are, then The Heat is the movie for you.



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