There’s a sense of paternalism running through most action films that feel the need to superficially give their female characters a “fair shake.” Too often are they either matched up against a weaker antagonist of the same sex, or over-powered to deliver the sort of power blows that fail to convince you at 100 lb. Anne Hathaway could try to sucker punch one of the superpowered villains of Gotham City, but it reeks of weak storytelling, the kind of false obstacles and weak solutions that force mostly male storytellers to take shortcuts in order to find a way to represent the fairer sex. It’s the sort of compromise we have allowed filmmakers to make for ages; perhaps after Paul Feig’s The Heat, this will no longer be a crutch that others accept as gospel.
The Heat finds Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy matched in an odd-couple pairing, the type usually reserved for a straight man and a slovenly manchild partner. Here, Bullock is Sarah Ashburn, the straight-laced FBI agent hunting a promotion embedded in a drug-running scandal that stretches throughout the East Coast. Sent to Boston to launch a full-scale investigation, her efforts find her clashing with fiery local beat cop Sharon Mullins (McCarthy). The professional tension is predictable, even if the chemistry is not.