The heat is on as Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy tear it up

Sandra Bullock as Ashburn and Melissa McCarthy as Mullins
Sandra Bullock as Ashburn and Melissa McCarthy as Mullins

Two years ago, Bridesmaids wooed UK audiences with the wickedly foul-mouthed antics of six thirty-something women behaving badly.

Paul Feig’s hysterical film was nominated for two Oscars, including a richly deserved nod for Melissa McCarthy as Best Supporting Actress with her unforgettable portrayal of a raunchy singleton desperate to get her man. Any man.

McCarthy’s comic whirlwind blows to gale force 10 once again in The Heat, an oestrogen-fuelled buddy cop caper that proves ladies can be every bit as politically incorrect and rough ‘n’ tumble as the lads.

In a rare instance of perfect casting, she is paired with Oscar winner Sandra Bullock, who is one of the few A-list actresses willing and, more importantly, able to humiliate herself on screen for our amusement.

The two leads spark off each other, milking belly laughs from a script that both embraces and subverts hoary cliches of the genre.

Each time the joke of the mismatched heroines threatens to wear thin, Bullock and McCarthy crank up the verbal one-upwomanship including a brilliantly simple visual gag with a knife that draws as many winces as guffaws.

FBI Special Agent Sarah Ashburn (Bullock) is one of the brightest operatives in the New York field office run by Hale (Demian Bichir). Unfortunately, her lack of people skills rubs colleagues up the wrong way. Hale dispatches Sarah to Boston, promising her promotion if she can work with the local detectives to bring down an enigmatic drug kingpin named Larkin.

In Boston, Sarah clashes with rebel cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who has bullied the men at her precinct into submission.

When someone suggests Shannon might be racist, she counters loudly, “9/10 guys I have sex with are black!”

Sarah refuses to submit to Shannon’s intimidation but knows that she must work with this loose cannon for the sake of promotion.

Unfortunately, their haphazard tactics jeopardise a long-running undercover operation masterminded by DEA agents Adam (Taran Killam) and Craig (Dan Bakkedahl).

If the litmus test for any comedy is how much you laugh out loud then The Heat sizzles. Bullock and McCarthy are a formidable double-act.

Initial rivalry between the characters mellows, somewhat inevitably, into sisterly solidarity, adding a sentimental sheen to closing frames.

However, first-time feature scriptwriter Dippold doesn’t know how to handle a lukewarm romantic subplot between Sarah and nice guy Levy (Marlon Wayans), so that particular strand remains frustratingly underdeveloped.

THE HEAT (15, 117 mins) Comedy/Action. Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Michael Rapaport, Marlon Wayans, Taran Killam, Dan Bakkedahl. Director: Paul Feig