Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg
Running time: 121 Minutes
Year of Release: 2007
To sum up: "Hot Fuzz" is a love letter to those often bad "Buddy-Cop-Action-Thrillers" brought to you by the creators of that modern classic "Shaun of the Dead". It asks the question, "Can a comedic send up of a thoroughly trodden genre meet and surpass the conventions of that genre?"
“Have you ever fired two guns
whilst jumping through the air?”
Sandford is a sleepy town where there is no crime, everybody knows each other, and are proud to have won the "Village of the Year" award several years in a row. But it turns out that Sandford is not the serene oasis it appears to be. Nicholas notices legal violations starting on his first night. Underage drinkers are permitted in the local pub. Nicholas later chases down a shoplifter. He also busts a person attempting to drive home while intoxicated. However, when he attempts to prosecute the underage drinkers, as well as the owner of the bar, his new boss, police chief Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), advises against it, claiming that a few kids in a bar are better than their being on the street. The store owner, Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), does not wish to press charges against the shoplifter. And to his shock, the drunk driver turns out to be Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the chief's son, one of his fellow officers, and, even worse, his new partner. In fact, the whole police department is irreverent towards, and shows contempt to, Angel and his uptight, big city ways. While we have no idea what Nicholas' personal concept of hell is, for this cop who is constantly on duty, it's very likely this.
And why not? Nothing of consequence ever happens in this small burgh. Or does it? In addition to a number of minor infractions, for some strange reason, quite a surprising number of people are ending up dead by what is being dismissed by all as mere accidents. But whatever they are being viewed as by the townspeople and his fellow officers, Angel is convinced that something more sinister is going on. Someone is murdering these people, and only his obtuse, yet genial partner, Butterman, is willing to consider the possibility that it's true.
As I've stated before, this is a loving tribute to buddy-cop action films. Butterman, as a character, exemplifies this as an actual presence in the film itself. He especially loves "Point Break" and "Bad Boys II"; so much so that when he pulls out the two DVD's of these films, he nearly bursts with a swelling, pious love worthy of Moses walking down Mt. Sinai with the Ten Commandments.
It is here that I must admit that I am a bit handicapped, because, in this Bruckheimer infested and influenced universe, I have not seen some of the films that are obviously referenced. Part of that is not good for a budding film critic, but as I don't get paid to do this (since I haven't figured out how), I've afforded myself a bit of film snobbery and not wasted my time watching a film that I know will be bad.
Or to put
it another way, I will employ a basic syllogism.
Based on that astounding reasoning, I have not bothered to see "Bad Boys II" or, very probably, many of the other films that may get a nod from "Hot Fuzz"; though I have seen "Point Break" and was disappointed that not one character in "Hot Fuzz" uttered the phrase, "Whoa!"
With Pegg and Wright's studious love of the American high adrenaline, buddy-cop action film genre, they have constructed a film that is irreverent, yet still bows at the alter of the required particulars of that genre. All of the clichés of the genre are covered. Two total opposites in personality are thrown together as partners. One's a straight shooter, while the other's casual attitude towards the rules will drive his partner nuts. They stumble upon a case that, while dismissed by his fellow officers as something simple, turns out to be far more sinister. One partner is trying to convince the other that there is more than meets the eye; in this case, that the unseemly deaths are murders and not mere accidents. Eventually, it's up to them to take matters into their own hands and take out the bad guys in what results in a high octane, explosive climax to the film. The only thing missing is one of the characters being six months away from retirement.
The irony of this is that unlike the majority of the films that inspired it, "Hot Fuzz" rises above them, while at the same time taking the familiarities of this style of film and turning them on their ear. Firstly, all that was mentioned above is there in some form in the story, but, first and foremost, what is present in "Hot Fuzz", that is not in the majority of the films of this type, is that this film is about something. While never losing sight of the universe that Pegg and Wright are playing in, they ensure that the story is about the people. As mentioned, Angel is a cop and that's all he is, whether on duty or not. Lazy Butterman is so eager to be part of the exciting world that exists in all of the police action films that he's consumed, that he's dying to learn all there is about it from his disagreeable new partner. At it's core, the film is about the growing friendship between the characters of Angel and Butterman; each influencing the other and by the end evolving to become better people.
That being said, while Angel's frustrations of adapting to a town that's content to move at the pace of a common tree sloth, as well as the film's insightful observations of small town life frequently result in comic gold, the film is flawed in the fact that it almost wallows in this placidity. It takes such great pains of building up the mystery and indulges in numerous feints that frustrate poor Angel as he tries to learn the truth, that the restlessness that Angel feels seeps into the audience. This is the film's chief problem; an undisciplined knack to want to include everything; and this prolongs the film past the point where it should have already concluded. So when the action does kick in, we're almost desperate for it. Worst of all, because of this slower pacing, the film commits a sin that is all too frequent in the cop action genre, and that is to make the action coda feel obligatory.
Simon Pegg achieves the near impossible; coming across as a tough as nails supercop. This is no slight on him but in a lineup of actors to play a tough no nonsense police officer, he's not the first choice. "He just doesn't have the look," as a casting director might say. And therein lies the clever conceit. Pegg, with his deadly serious scowl, spot on, by-the-book attitude, and lips so firmly pursed that it would take a crowbar to pry them open, comes across as a very accomplished actor. By that I mean that it takes no time at all to buy into the fact that he is one tough cop. He is able to transform himself from the skinny, nerdish type that he is more famously known for; and it's ironic that it is a film like this and not a drama that enables him to show that toughness. I hope he gets many more opportunities to show his range.
Also surprising was Nick Frost's transformation. At first it appears that his character will be very similar to the one he played in "Shaun of the Dead", an amiable slob that wallows in the mediocrity of his life. But in Angel, he finds a doorway to the exciting police world that he worshiped through the films he has watched. And whether Angel likes it or not, Butterman becomes he most willing student and trusted confidant. Like Pegg, it gives Frost a chance to show a bit of acting rang as slowly, the film enables him to demonstrate an honest sympathetic naivety. Again, a nice change from type.
Other notables are Timothy Dalton and Jim Broadbent. Tall and intimidating as the grocery store owner (more so than in the two James Bond films in which he appeared), Dalton is sneeringly friendly, his every sentence cryptically drips with dualistic meaning. As Frank Butterman, Broadbent makes for a soothing, fatherly police chief as he attempts to steer Angel towards a calmer, more understanding mindset about the town, and its slower ways.
This film is a treat; a refreshing, studious comedy, that knowingly mines, in unique and clever ways, a genre that has become a parody of itself. You may have seen the dive-for-cover-with-shrapnel-flying-everywhere shot. You may have seen the pistols-in-both-hands shot. You may have even seen the slow-motion-dive-with-guns-blazing shot. But I bet you've never seen it in a grocery store.
Is this fuzz hot? “Yarp.”