by Eric D. Snider
Released: April 20, 2007
The clever Brits who merrily deconstructed zombie movie with "Shaun of the Dead" have now applied their considerable talents to "Hot Fuzz," a loving and faithful comic homage to the Buddy-Cop Action Flick. Can I put in a request now for these guys to do this for every major film genre?
Parodies are a dime a dozen. Lame spoofs like "Epic Movie" and "Date Movie" pop up now and then, grab a couple cheap laughs, then evaporate as soon as their jokes become dated (usually in a matter of days). "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" feature some satiric elements, but their central purpose is to express affection for the movies that inspired them, not derision. What's more, these homages are funny, exciting, and shrewd. Just as "Shaun" was both a gentle spoof of zombie movies and a very good zombie movie, "Hot Fuzz" is equally adept at repurposing the elements of a "Lethal Weapon"-type flick while also being one in its own right.
Edgar Wright is the director again, and once more he has co-written the screenplay with Simon Pegg. Pegg stars as Sgt. Nicholas Angel, a no-nonsense London cop, a married-to-his-job type whose arrest rate is four times higher than anyone else's in his precinct. For that reason -- i.e., he's making everyone else look bad -- he's sent to Sandford, a sleepy little country village where the greatest plague facing the citizenry is a street performer who poses as a statue for tip money. There is no crime. The local cops have little to do.
Nick resents the new assignment, but he vows to do his duty and make the most of it. He reminds me a lot of Dwight on "The Office." He has no visible sense of humor, he takes his job and its rules very seriously, and he won't abide any shenanigans. He's not even in Sandford 12 hours before he's chasing underage drinkers out of the pub and bringing a would-be drunk driver into the station to sleep it off in a cell.
That souse turns out to be his new partner, of course. His name is Danny Butterman, and he's played by Nick Frost, Pegg's buddy from "Shaun of the Dead." Danny isn't much of a cop, although, to be fair, Sandford doesn't need much of a cop. His dad (Jim Broadbent) is the commanding officer at the precinct, and Danny went into the family business on a lark. The other cops in Sandford include a pair of grouchy detectives (Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall), a lady cop (Olivia Colman) who speaks only in double-entendres, and a couple other hangers-on. Discipline and paperwork are handled rather loosely, as you might imagine.
Danny may be a slacker, but he's keen to learn. He's in awe of the fact that his new partner got to see a lot of action in London, and he rather adorably mimics everything Nick teaches him about Real Police Work. Nick, for his part, starts to loosen up a bit, particularly when Danny exposes him to something he's been missing out on all this time: super-awesome cop movies! "Point Break" and "Bad Boys II" are Danny's particular favorites, and you can see Nick's life change forever when he watches them for the first time.
But there's serious business to attend to! There's been a rash of strange fatal accidents in Sandford lately, and Nick suspects they are not accidental at all. We, the audience, know he is right, for we have seen a black-cloaked figure at the scene of every incident. Who is the culprit? The town is full of possible suspects, but the shadiest is Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton!), manager of the local supermarket and a sly, villainous man if ever there was one.
Wright has lots of fun with the conventions of this genre, skewing them enough to be funny without turning into an all-out parody. He uses quick-cut editing and overdone sound effects to accompany Nick doing something mundane like filling out paperwork, and it gets a laugh every time. Just as in "Shaun of the Dead," the screenplay is rife with throwaway references to other films, as well as set-ups for punchlines that come later. Nearly every line of dialogue is relevant, either as foreshadowing for something else or as a standalone joke. You can quibble about the value of certain scenes, but to my mind there's not a wasted minute anywhere in the movie.
Nor is there a wasted actor. Pegg and Frost continue to be an outstanding comedy team, with perfect chemistry and delivery between them. But the supporting players are wonderfully dotty, too, including those who speak only one or two lines. Sandford is alive with odd little characters, from the hulking grocery store employee who mostly just says "yarp" (for "yes") to the decrepit old woman who runs the boarding house where Nick is staying.
It's hard to pin down the film's humor as one particular type; wordplay, slapstick, and witty repartee are all used to equally great effect. The jokes can be broad one minute, subtle the next. The main thing is, they're funny. From beginning to end, top to bottom, the movie is wonderfully funny.
And the resolution to the big mystery? Well, it's ludicrous, but intentionally so ... unlike "Bad Boys II," which I'm pretty sure wanted us to take it seriously.
Rated R, scattered harsh profanity, several gruesome images presented for comic shock value
2 hrs., 1 min.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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