FBI agent Sarah Ashburn (Sandra Bullock) is an expert and effective investigator in New York City, but is despised by her allied agents for her egotistical & vicious personality. When her manager assigns her to a mission in Boston, she meets a detective named Shannon Mullins (Melissa McCarthy), a skilled but loudmouthed, bloodthirsty, sadistic, hot headed, dirty cop who is part of the Boston Police Department. Ashburn's ruthless philosophy clashes with Mullin's nefarious style of law work, proved during their attempt to interrogate local drug dealer Rojas (Spoken Reasons) who was captured by Mullins. Under pressure from Hale (Demián Bichir), her employer, Ashburn reluctantly agrees to work with Mullins as her ally.
Ashburn and Mullins tail a local nightclub manager named Hank LeSoire (Adam Ray) to his place of business known as Club Ekko and successfully place a bug on his cell phone in an effort to get information on a drug lord, Simon Larkin. As they leave the club, Ashburn and Mullins are confronted by DEA agents Craig (Dan Bakkedahl) and Adam (Taran Killam), who have been working the Larkin case for several months and are worried that their case will be compromised. Ashburn and Mullins discover a surveillance video in the DEA agents' van showing Mullins' brother, Jason (Michael Rapaport), apparently connected to Larkin's organization. Jason was recently released from prison, having been put there by Mullins to keep him off the streets and out of trouble.
Ashburn convinces Mullins to go to her parents' home to ask Jason for information on Larkin. On their arrival at the home, it becomes apparent that Mullins' parents (Michael B. Tucci and Jane Curtin), particularly her mother and three brothers, Peter (Joey McIntyre), Mark (Bill Burr) and Michael (Nathan Corddry) two of whom have girlfriends, Gina (Jessica Chaffin) and Beth (Jamie Denbo) still resent Mullins for her involvement in Jason's incarceration. However, Jason does not have any ill feelings toward his sister, and tips her off about the body of a murdered drug dealer by the name of Sal Netalie in an abandoned car. Chemicals on the victim's shoes lead Ashburn and Mullins to an abandoned paint factory, where they witness a drug dealer being murdered by Julian Vincent (Michael McDonald), vicious criminal and second-in-command of Larkin's organization. They apprehend Julian but are unable to extract any substantial information regarding Larkin's whereabouts, even with Mullins going so far as to play Russian Roulette with Julian's testicles.
The pair spend the evening bonding in a bar, where a drunk Ashburn reveals that her foster child past may be partly to blame for her attitude. After a night of raucous drinking and partying, Ashburn wakes up the following morning to discover that, in her drunkenness, she has given her car keys to Wayne (Steve Bannos), one of the bar patrons. After unsuccessfully pleading for the keys, Ashburn and Mullins watch as the patron starts the car and is killed by a bomb. They discover that Julian has escaped from custody and means to harm Mullins' family, so Mullins moves her family into a motel. Jason leaves, intending to join the Larkin organization in an attempt to help Mullins solve the case. Jason gives her a tip about a drug shipment coming into Boston Harbor. Despite Mullins' reluctance, Ashburn gets the FBI to take down the shipment. The FBI finds that the ship is actually an innocent pleasure cruise ship. Jason was being tested by Larkin, who shoots Jason for informing the FBI about the supposed drug shipment. Jason escapes death but falls into a coma. A falling out occurs between Mullins and Ashburn, with Mullins vowing to bring her brother's attacker to justice. They then reconcile when they arrest several drug dealers as a way of gaining leads to Larkin's whereabouts, including Rojas.
Ashburn and Mullins go to equip themselves with assault weapons from Mullins' extensive personal arsenal, and infiltrate one of Larkin's warehouses. Despite taking out several of Larkin's men with a hand grenade, the two officers are captured and bound. Julian is about to torture them with knives when he gets called away by Larkin. Before Julian leaves, he stabs Ashburn in the leg and leaves the knife in the wound. Mullins removes the knife from Ashburn's leg and uses it to cut the rope binding her hands. Before she can finish freeing herself and Ashburn, they are discovered by Craig and Adam. Craig begins to untie the two women, but is shot and killed by Adam. Ashburn and Mullins learn that Adam is actually Larkin, who has been working his own case from inside the DEA for several months. Julian returns and Larkin orders him to kill Ashburn and Mullins while he goes to the hospital to kill Jason. After Larkin leaves, Mullins manages to finish freeing herself and Ashburn incapacitates Julian with a head butt, after Mullins had stabbed him in the leg. Mullins and Ashburn race to the hospital to save Jason.
Upon their arrival, Mullins rushes to find Jason. Ashburn, hindered by the stab wound in her leg, lags behind, unable to move quickly. Mullins learns that, due to the foul language she and her family exhibit, the doctor moved Jason to another room in the hospital; she finds Jason's room, only to be disarmed by Larkin. He is about to kill Jason when Ashburn, having had to crawl to the room, subdues Larkin by shooting him in the genitals (much to Mullins' surprise, as she would never actually do so; scaring Julian earlier was only a way of making him talk). With Larkin captured, Ashburn requests to stay in the FBI's Boston field office, having developed a strong friendship with Mullins. Jason is shown having fully recovered from his coma. The film ends with Mullins receiving a commendation from the Boston Police Department. Members of her family are present and they cheer Mullins, now having reconciled with her. Ashburn later gets a call from Mullins to look in her year book. Mullins had signed the back of Ashburn's yearbook with the words, "Foster kid, now you have a sister", showing the strong friendship that Mullins felt for a previously unpopular Ashburn.
As a surprise, Mullins brings to Ashburn the cat that she had found in Ashburn's neighbor's house, believing it was hers. Earlier, when Mullins saw a photo of Ashburn with the neighbor's cat, Ashburn had lied and said it was her cat which had gone missing in New York. Mullins quickly deduces that the cat is not Ashburn's; Ashburn confesses and the cat is boxed to be shipped back, ending the film.
The Heat is screenwriter Katie Dippold's feature film debut. Dippold wrote the spec script on the side while fulfilling writing duties on Parks and Recreation and ultimately sold it to producer Peter Chernin for $600,000 prior to even being presented to prospective bidders. Inspired by the buddy cop film genre, primarily examples such as Running Scared (1986) and Lethal Weapon (1987), Dippold set out to write a film in which the leads were portrayed by women. As Dippold explains, "[In] Running Scared, they go down to the Caribbean and there's this montage of them on scooters, and there's a different hot girl on the back every time it cuts back to the scooter. And it just felt like, I don't want to be the girl on the back of the scooter. I want to be the awesome cop doing this stuff."
Despite the success of Bridesmaids (2011), studio executives were still uncertain of an action film with a female-led cast. "There were people suspicious of this attempt, who thought girls won't want to see a cop action movie and guys won't want to see two girls holding guns and we'd cancel out our potential audience," said producer Jenno Topping. "But we really believed, at the end of the day, it wouldn't be about gender as much as it would be about delivering a courageous action comedy with some heart to it."
On May 19, 2012, director Paul Feig and actresses Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy signed on to the film after previously struggling to close deals due to scheduling and payment conflicts. At this time, the film was called The Untitled Female Buddy Cop Comedy.
Principal photography for The Heat began on July 5, 2012 at Dudley Square in Boston, Massachusetts.
The soundtrack is composed by Michael Andrews who previously scored Feig's Bridesmaids and Unaccompanied Minors (2006). A soundtrack album containing songs featured in the film was released on June 25, 2013 by Lakeshore Records. Of these songs, the album includes a brand new track entitled "Rock This" by Santigold. Describing why he chose the songs featured in the film, Feig said, "My favorite part of filmmaking is finding the perfect music to complement what's happening on screen. And I wanted The Heat to feel like a party. I wanted the audience to have fun. And since I have to watch a movie hundreds of times as I'm making it, I wanted to use music that I wouldn't get tired of. Every song in this film is a desert island song for me. I will never get sick of them."
While originally intended to be released on April 5, 2013, Fox pushed back the release date to June 28, 2013. The film held its world premiere in New York City on June 23, 2013.
The first official full-length trailer of the film was released on November 16, 2012.
The Heat earned $39,115,043 in North American markets during its opening weekend. The film has grossed $159,582,188 in the domestic market and $70,348,583 internationally for a worldwide total of $229,930,771. The Heat was a box office success (from an estimated $43 million budget) and was also 2013's second-highest-grossing comedy (We're the Millers topped it with $269,994,119).
The Heat was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on October 15, 2013. The Blu-ray features an unrated version of the film, along with several audio commentaries: one with McCarthy and director Feig; one with the actors who portray the Mullins family; and one with the original Mystery Science Theater 3000 crew.
On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 65% based on 169 reviews with an average rating of 6.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Heat is predictable, but Melissa McCarthy is reliably funny and Sandra Bullock proves a capable foil." On Metacritic, the film has a score of 60 out of 100 based on 37 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.
Shortly after the film's release, director Feig announced that the film will be followed by a sequel. In October 2013, Bullock stated that she won't come back for the sequel and the project itself was put on hold. Instead, the sequel was reportedly being replaced by a spin-off film that will center around Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin's characters Beth and Gina from the first film.