From director Edgar Wright and actor Simon Pegg, the geniuses who brought us the landmark action / comedy / spoof ‘Shaun of the Dead’, comes ‘Hot Fuzz’ in which they turn their rather sharp razors on to the buddy action comedies that we used to love so dearly in the late 80’s and early 90’s. And to the surprise of no one, well at least not to my surprise, they have succeeded yet again.
Pegg is Nicholas Angel, London Super Cop. He has the highest arrest record of any officer on the force, the most skill of any officer on the force and knows the rules and regulations book like most people know Mary Had a Little Lamb. Problem is that Nicholas does his job far too well and he’s making everyone else look like a bunch of lazy slackers. Well the Police Service can’t very well have that and despite Officer Angel’s vehement complaints, ship him off to the small sleepy English town of Sanford - which would be akin to sending John McClaine to Narragansett Rhode Island. Yippie Ka Yay my ass.
Voted the nicest city in England three years in a row, Angel’s worst fears are confirmed as most crimes consist of chasing wayward swans, and reprimanding blokes who trim their hedges improperly. Plus there hasn’t been a murder in Sanford in over twenty years. Other problems arise in the extremely lose interpretation that his fellow officers have for applying the law, which simply drives a driven, by the book hard ass like Angel crazy. As such, Angel is not very popular with his new stable mates who go out of their way to make his life miserable. Angel however is able to forge a friendship with the drunken, slovenly but charming police constable Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), who greatly admires Angel’s prodigious police skills and procedural acumen.
Though it may be true that there hasn’t been a murder in Sanford in over twenty years, there sure have been whole bunch of fatal accidents. After the fourth such ‘accident’ in less than a week, one which Angel himself personally witnesses, he realizes that something is severely off kilter with the sleepy little town, but he has no idea how off kilter it is. With no one believing him, and with very little proof to back him up, Nicholas Angel is on his own to expose the truth of Sanford, which could very well cost him his life.
‘Hot Fuzz’ is great entertainment, and if you’ve seen Wrights’ ‘Shaun of the Dead’, then the same rules which were used in that film apply to this one as well. ‘Shaun of the Dead’ wasn’t a straight send up farce of a zombie movie, say similar to ‘Airplane’ or the dreadful ‘Date Movie’. It was a zombie movie first and foremost with comedic elements embedded within. Same for ‘Hot Fuzz’ which is actual cop, action mystery buddy flick first, infused with a lot of witty, wry British style humor along with a load of extremely over-the-top action set pieces infused in for good measure.
Part of the fun in watching ‘Hot Fuzz’ is picking out which action movie is Wright stealing from in any particular scene. Admittedly, he does gleefully steal from ‘Point Break’ and ‘Bad Boys II’, and you may wonder how can anybody take anything from ‘Bad Boys II’ and still have a decent movie, but he somehow manages. There a so many little tiny jokes and subtle nuances that I’m sure I missed a load of them, and if I actually believed in watching a movie more than once, which is something I don’t do, I would watch this one again to pick up some the finer points I might have missed.
Simon Pegg discards the lovable goof that he normally plays in most of his films and portrays Nicholas Angel so straight and humorless that that in itself is hilarious. Think Harry Callahan, if he was a foot shorter, a thinning blonde and actually played by the rules. Nick Frost provides all of the humor, as he tends to do, as a good hearted schlub who’s not as stupid as he looks. ‘Hot Fuzz’ also comes by its ‘R’ rating quite honestly with about as much blood and gore as I’ve seen in any movie not featuring Jason, Freddy or Pinhead.
Though ‘Hot Fuzz’ didn’t clock in at the long 150 incredibly horrific minutes like the interminable ‘Bad Boys II’ (Note: I loved the original Bad Boys), but it did run a little too long at over two hours. Admittedly, a large portion of this was in the completely over-the-top Bad Boyseque homage ending sequence that featured more guns, explosions, and car chases than should be legally allowed in a movie, but the film did run long, and I could tell it was running long. Also, one could argue that the narrative was a bit too inconsistent as it jumped from thriller, to comedy, to mystery, to slapstick and back to thriller again and may have a lacked some cohesiveness.
I’m not going to harp on any of that though, because the bottom line is that ‘Hot Fuzz’ was damned good entertainment from start to finish. It was a film that was able to make fun of its source material while respecting it at the same time, and that ain’t easy to do. I’ll be curious to see what those wacky British lunatics can come up with next. Maybe it’s time we start making fun of Jane Austen? I’m all for it.