REVIEW: Hot Fuzz [2007]

“Decaffeinated?”

Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright are back, with a vengeance. Their send up to all those action films—as they say containing names picked at random from two hats, one of verbs, the other of adjectives—is a fantastic melding of British humor, preposterous action sequences, gruesome horror, and a bit of romantic comedy thrown in for good measure. But then, what action flick doesn’t have a little bit of romantic chemistry between its two macho lead actors? As with Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is not a spoof playing on the weaknesses of movies, deriding them as a result, but instead a send up to the films that they themselves love and adore. By playing on the clichés and lack of realism inherent in those types of movies, Pegg and Wright, in effect, create their own addition to the genre, knowing full well what they are doing because they know action films as fans and want to do them justice while also pointing out their absurdities.

Not quite sure how this comedy powerhouse would hold up to their first masterpiece, I knew all was well once I saw staples Julia Deakin and Bill Bailey involved in the mayhem. Anytime the old “Spaced” crew can come out to play, I’m ready to enjoy. The premise of the film is as ludicrous as most popcorn action movies, seeing London’s top policeman, I mean officer, being reassigned to the country for doing his job too well and making the station look bad. Upon going to the reigning safest city in England, he sees the bumbling team he is to work with and the small town values subverting him from doing his job. Underage drinking? It’s ok because we are keeping them off the streets, anything for the greater good of course. Only when our hero starts to see what the town calls accidents are really murders, does he begin to delve deeper into the motives of the town’s elders to see what is going on behind the scenes.

Credit Pegg and Wright for taking the time for some great exposition before we get to the all out gunfight of its conclusion. Viewers should be warned that this is a British comedy at heart, setting up the story intelligently and coherently so that the finale is that much more effective. Again, this is not a spoof of loosely tied together sequences just out for cheap laughs; it is a well-told, complete story that stands on its own without the need to catch every pop-culture reference included. That said though, the comedy is huge when it comes to the subtle hinting at appropriated images from past films. Pegg and Wright have shown with their show “Spaced” that they are the kings at pop-culture comedy, think “Family Guy” only less absurd in their integration to the story. Sure there are the blatant examples like Nick Frost pumping a clip of bullets into the air ( Point Break) and the helicopter flying in slow motion above their heads (Bad Boys 2), and all the one liners culled from decades of actioners, however, there are also lesser known in-jokes like the fence scene mimicking their own Shaun of the Dead, and references to the “Addams Family” and “He-Man” among others. Even the Godzilla like fight in a model village, while already done in “Arrested Development,” is orchestrated to perfection.

Hot Fuzz is really all about the actors delivering the gem of a screenplay. The real action flicks are known for their special effects and explosions, but this film does not have the budget for all that. Instead we are treated with many close-up shots during big fight scenes in order to give the look of high-octane action yet keeping within financial constraints. It’s the facial expressions of the cast that sell the scenes for realism purposes as well as for big laughs. Our lead is perfectly played by Simon Pegg himself. His dry sense of sarcasm and utter professionalism amongst the idiots of the nation make him the only person to save the town from destruction. As always, his sidekick is portrayed by, real-life best friend, Nick Frost. Frost’s ability to be a child is superb and goes well with the relationship of student/teacher evolving into one of equals. His asinine questions and giddy clapping and laughing are hilarious, but when the time comes to take care of business, he’s ready for the big show. The supporting cast are all fantastic as well with their broad characters allowed to run wild, while honed in enough to suit the story. Timothy Dalton has some big laugh moments as the villainous supermarket owner, Jim Broadbent is having a blast as the easy going chief inspector, and Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall give us some of the funniest lines and reactions as the Andys.

In the end, the story really proves to be a lot more intelligent than you might expect. Pegg and Wright not only had to come up with a setup to their big blast of gunfire, but in fact came up with two explanations in order for their reveal to be effective. When our villains laugh and say their motives were so much easier than thought, it’s great. The characters are all having fun with themselves and the one-liners are as much a joy to the audience as they are to the people they are spoken to. Not only is Hot Fuzz using the gimmicks for the viewers’ benefit, but also at many times doing it for the film itself. Each role seems as though they know they are in an action flick and play it up for their own amusement.

I’m sure many people will end up finding the film to be slow and unfunny, and that is all because of expectations we Americans have. We want our comedies to be broad and in your face, however, British humor is not as cut and dry as that. Hopefully the audiences here will give the film a chance for the great movie it is, or at least sit through it for the awesome payoff at the end. Elderly folk in an all out war with the police, having an unlimited amount of ammo? Only in England.

Hot Fuzz 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Ya gotta love the many cameos, including Peter Jackson as the stabbing Santa and Cate Blanchett as Janine.

photography:
[1] Danny (Nick Frost) and Angel (Simon Pegg) in Rogue Pictures’ Hot Fuzz – 2007
[2] A scene from Rogue Pictures’ Hot Fuzz – 2007

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