Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is an uptight New York FBI agent, mostly hated by her peers and jonesing for a promotion. She gets wind of an elusive drug lord working out of Boston; unfortunately, there’s another lady on the case – brassy, bawdy cop Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), who’s cleaning up her neighbourhood one scumbag at a time. The two certainly don’t get off on the right foot; Mullins nearly knocks Ashburn off of hers when the G-woman sneakily tries to interview a perp. But soon enough, they realise their outlaw-apprehending talents are complementary – like Nolte and Murphy or Gibson and Glover before them.
As in any buddy comedy, chemistry is key – and Bullock and McCarthy have it in spades. Watch the way they constantly adjust to each other’s physical and verbal rhythms, and you’re often left in awe at their adeptness (notably in a gut-busting nightclub scene in which Mullins tries to get her partner to come out of her shell). Would that director Paul Feig displayed any visual imagination beyond dully flat lighting and yeoman camera setups, or that the film’s weird tonal whiplash between ribaldry, sentimentality and extreme violence – a knife to the thigh here, a bullet to the head there – didn’t temper the hilarity generated by the stars. They deserve a much stronger showcase than this Laurel & Hardy Go Policin’ vehicle. Keith Uhlich
Dir Paul Feig Category IIB, 117 mins, opens on Thu Aug 8