Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Olivia Colman, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman
MPAA Rating: (for violent content including some graphic images, and language)
Running Time: 2:01
Release Date: 4/20/07
Review by Mark Dujsik
If there was any collection of movies that needed a serious slap upside the head, it's the action movie perpetrated by the likes of Michael Bay and any director who finds the favor of Jerry Bruckheimer. Hot Fuzz, from its rapid-fire opening montage to its explosive finale, deflates the pomp of the action genre's posturing with hilarious precision. This is second feature from the writer/director and writer/star pairing of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, the duo behind the downright addictive zombie movie homage Shaun of the Dead, and it is just as funny, just as spot-on, and almost as addicting. What makes Wright and Pegg's handling of genre clichés work is the way they spin them to make an almost realist view of how these types of movies would play out in the real world. Here, though, while they might be fond of Hollywood actioners (nowhere near as fond as they are of horror flicks, I suspect), Wright and Pegg are more prone in this instance to taking loving knocks at their base material. It certainly deserves the criticism, but the film works beyond satire—like but not quite as successfully as its predecessor in tone—to work wholly as an entry in the genre that's being lampooned, albeit one with tongue firmly in cheek.
Actually, the film gets the whole thing right with its first shot as Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Pegg, who has nailed the badass look) takes a long walk down a long hallway into a London police station, the automatic doors and his footsteps registering incredibly loudly on the bass levels of the soundtrack. Suddenly it kicks into high-octane mode, a montage, equally loud (let's assume that when the film goes into Hollywood action mode, it's really loud), telling us Angel's extensive résumé: an ace at firearms, high-speed pursuit, advanced cycling, etc. Problem is, he's too good, a fact related to him by his superiors in turn (how's this for a lineup: Martin Freeman, an uncredited Steve Coogan, and Bill Nighy).. His arrest-rate is 400 percent higher than other officers, and he makes everyone else look bad. The solution: Transfer him to the sleepy town of Sandford. Not before he makes a visit to his ex-girlfriend Janine (an uncredited Cate Blanchett, although you wouldn't know as her face is covered by a mask, leading to some very funny confusion about who's who at the crime scene), who tells him the usual: "You're married to the force." So it's off to the country, alone but still determined to enforce the letter of the law.
Sandford's quiet; perhaps a bit too quiet. This is the kind of town where everyone is involved with everyone else's business, the police station has a swear box (used to great subtle effect during an argument), underage drinking is overlooked to avoid young hoodlums wandering the street at night, and the town elders' largest concern is the presence of a living statue. The town is preparing for adjudicators who will decide if Sandford is Town of Year yet again. Not caring about rocking the boat, Angel starts making arrests before his new job begins, including bringing in Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) for a DUI. Turns out Butterman is a constable and son of Angel's new boss Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent—oh, how great this casting is). Danny is also Angel's new partner, and the constable is thrilled to be in the presence of a big city cop, asking if he's ever done anything like they do in the movies (firing your gun while jumping in the car, firing your gun while driving, etc.). Danny loves action movies. He stops at the discount DVD bin as Angel chases down a shoplifter (hoping that Silent Rage—king of martial arts Chuck Norris versus a bionic killing machine—is good), and he eventually convinces Angel to a double feature of Point Break and Bad Boys II.
It will take a lot of time to accurately catch all of the references to other movies interlaced throughout the film, but it's still a lot of fun trying. Overt references to those mentioned movies exist, and there are lines directly taken from Chinatown, The Shining, and, of course, Shaun of the Dead (a replay of the shortcut gag from that movie is quite funny). There's also a most terrible homage to Romeo + Juliet, which might go down as some of the best intentionally bad Shakespeare ever put on film. For as many action movie clichés and references that exist here, Wright and Pegg cannot escape their love for the horror genre, and after our introduction to the town, we get a killer, dressed in a cloak, dispatching victims in grisly ways and making their deaths look like accidents. The town hasn't seen a reported murder in 20 years, and everyone pegs the deaths to "accidents" (she fell on her pruning shears). Angel, of course, has other ideas. Could it be Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), the owner of the local supermarket, who continuously says ominous things in front of Angel? Whatever is going on, it keeps Angel from catching a swan that's escaped its owner and turns up at the most opportune moments.
Again, though, it's all about dissecting action clichés, and there are rapid-cut montages of mundane things (paperwork, primarily; Angel wonders about the amount of paperwork that would conclude Point Break). Since there's no romantic interest for Angel, his professional partnership fills in the role. Yes, there is an odd homoerotic quality to certain action movie partnerships we've seen, and Angel and Danny have a strange tension registering just under the surface. It's played out low key, so as not to ruin the joke. Not as subtle, though, is the film's climax. The avenging Angel rides into Sandford on a horse ("When did we get a mounted division?"), armed to the teeth (seriously, he has a toothpick dangling from his mouth, which he unfortunately does not use as a weapon), to take down the plague of corruption that has gone unnoticed. It's a virtuoso comic sequence. The clichéd moments abound (a villain escapes behind a shower of sparks, the camera spins around our heroes as they exchange badass dialogue, and bullets and quips fly), and it all ends with a fight in a model village, reminiscent of a Japanese monster movie.
I have seen Hot Fuzz twice, and it is a film that depends entirely on its little details—how many more are picked up on subsequent viewings, and how funny those that were caught before remain. There are a lot of little pleasures here (I must mention composer David Arnold's spot-on impersonation of the scores of Harry Gregson-Williams), and they all add up to an experience that is critical yet loving—satirical yet genuine—and totally inspired comedy.
Copyright © 2007 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
Buy Related Products