Friday, April 27, 2007

In Theaters: Hot Fuzz

Image yanked from CanMag
HOT FUZZ may just be a perfect movie for what it is. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's follow-up of sorts to the ingenious SHAUN OF THE DEAD blends the action and masculine bonding of the American buddy cop picture with a distinctly British cosiness; the resulting film isn't just funny, it actually works as a goofy kind of action thriller, with a great twisted plot and fun characters. It's easily the most fun film to come out this year so far, and as far as I can tell the best.

Simon Pegg is Nicholas Angel, a talented and ambitious Police Constable in London whose multiple commendations earn him, well, some resentment at the station, and he is given a lateral move- he is promoted to sergeant, but transferred to the quiet town of Sandford. It's the very picture of a quaint English hamlet, with rustic buildings and a big church and a small pub and so on. Angel's partner Danny (Nick Frost, also part of the comedy team) is the son of the Inspector (Jim Broadbent), and is, frankly, a bit of an idiot, but has a deep and abiding love of cop movies and wants desperately to hear about any and all gunfights and car chases Angel has been involved with. Work is pretty dull until a couple of townsfolk turn up dead in what looks like a car accident, but almost certainly isn't. And they're just the first two casualties, as Angel and Danny try to piece together a mystery involving the whole town while the rest of the police department would rather just punch out early and head to the pub.

Even though this is mostly being marketed as an action spoof, it's actually a while before we reach that portion of things. This isn't a problem, though, as the build-up takes the form of a very clever murder mystery, as well as a nice look at the mundanity of both police work and small-town life. The "whodunit" part is intricate but coherent, with lots of crimson-hued fish lying about and an ultimate solution that not only makes sense (a rare enough achievement) but is rather brilliantly perverse. A lot of comedy is wrung from minor incidents like the pursuit of a rogue swan and the police department's required presence at an utterly dreadful local performance of ROMEO & JULIET (which is obviously copying the Baz Luhrmann film version), but it turns out almost everything actually ties into the main plot. The film is one of those rare comedies that could almost work if played "straight"; the gags never come at the expense of the story, or indeed the characters. The centerpiece of the film, of course, is the partnership between Angel and Danny, and in the tradition of the best buddy pictures, the two conflicting personalities start to rub off on each other. Motivations are strong, backgrounds are present, and in the end their connection is rather touching.

The action works too. The gunfights are less bloody than those in actual action movies (though there's still gore to spare), and everything's slightly silly, but it's also visceral and well-choreographed (there's even a good in-story explanation as to where most of the guns come from.) Amusingly, Wright applies the usually annoying flash-cut montage technique present in many of these films to scenes like processing prisoners and going out for drinks. The actual shooting and kicking and whatnot is shot in a much more coherent way, and is much more satisfying as a result. The film even manages a few stylistic references to other genres, including slasher films and- no, I don't have the heart for it.

Pegg and Frost have as much chemistry as before, with Pegg as even more the straight man than usual. They're supported by a truly veteran cast, most notably Timothy Dalton as a sinister supermarket owner and Adam Buxton as a weaselly reporter. Some of the smaller parts are also noteworthy, such as PC Doris (Olivia Colman), a policewoman who uses most every line as an opportunity for cheeky innuendo. The police service's actual detectives, the "Andys" (Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall) have notable mustaches and an annoying refusal to see anything remarkable in the fact that the town has no murders but a surprisingly high accident rate.

This is sort of a hard review to write, mainly because I'm getting caught in a pattern of saying "this is great" over and over again. There's really nothing negative I have to say; there's not a false note in the entire production as far as I can tell. It is exactly what it needs to be. It pays effective tribute to a genre I've never been a fan of, and manages just a wee bit of social commentary on the side. At this point all I can do is give the film my highest recommendation, and eagerly await whatever Wright and Pegg decide to do next. (Here's a suggestion: DON'T!)

Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg
Directed by Edgar Wright

Grade: A

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