Hot Fuzz

dir: Edgar Wright
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Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and probably a whole bunch of other people, try to do to the buddy cop genre what they did to the zombie genre in Shaun of the Dead. If you saw and liked Shaun, then you know what to expect.

If you hated Shaun, then you probably haven’t got a hope in hell of getting anything out of this here flick.

Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is an extremely driven cop who is so good at his job with the metropolitan police that they transfer him out to the boondocks because he makes the rest of them look bad. When he gets to the sleepy, quiet town, he discovers that there’s more going on than meets the eye.

The locals are the expected group of quirky hicks you’d expect from a British flick of such a nature, populating the place with some characters that wouldn’t be out of place in a show like Ballykissangel, Monarch of the Glen or Doctor Martin, and some who you only find in the shows and flicks made by Edgar Wright. Once on the town beat, the police chief’s chubby, somewhat simple son Danny (Nick Frost) latches onto him and makes him the wind beneath his wings. What follows is one and a half hours of set up, and twenty minutes of utterly over the top gun action which would deafen John Woo himself.

Nick is humourless and painfully rigid, but gradually comes to appreciate how wonderful small towns and small town hicks are. Danny gets to, I dunno, learn how wonderful it is to have someone to idolise. At least, I guess that’s where the dramatic character arc bullshit is supposed to go.

What really happens is that the entire story is predicated on a completely farcical set up, even more so than a zombie film would be. This is, after all, a comedy based on satirising the vapidity and machismo of the action cop genre. It’s so deliberately ridiculous that you can’t really mind it and stay sane. Goofy circumstances arise whereby multiple murders are committed, yet most of the townsfolk, including the other police working with Nick don’t believe anything untoward is happening. Of course we know he’s right, but it’s a long slog to the finish line.

Edward Woodward, who has aged horribly and terribly in a manner that recalls what Sir Richard Attenborough would look like if his DNA were spliced with a haemorrhoid, has a role as a form of village elder who has some role to play in the nefarious goings-on. In fact much of the cast is made up of fairly well-known faces from British tv and film. Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton all have roles to play.

Sure, there’s a lot of low-key laughs, but that trawl, that slog to the finale is a bit wearying. Much of the humour, apart from pop culture references and absurdist moments, arises from the hyper-aggressive editing which would be familiar to anyone who watched Shaun or the television series Spaced. The editing is very over the top, almost painfully so, and makes you think of what it would be like to watch a film whilst being whacked in the back of the head with a two-by-four.

I think Hot Fuzz suffers a bit from over-expectation, in that a lot of people maybe expected Shaun II. It probably hampered my enjoyment of it, to point out the obvious. Whilst there is a fair bit of humour there, a lot of it is reliant on repetition and stretching the absurdist premise passed the point that physics should allow. But generally it manages to be a light-hearted affair.

In lieu of a romantic interest, the core of the story really is, as you’d expect, the friendship between Nick and Danny. It really hinges on Danny, especially, who is a pretty funny character in the hands of Frost. He gets a lot of the funny lines, mannerisms, and has some silly ways of making moments like putting on deodorant funnier than they should be. Also, being able to make the one-word question, “Pub?” funny is a mark of a true talent.

When he wants to give Nick a crash course in ‘real’ cop behaviour, he makes him watch Point Break and Bad Boys II in a form of indoctrination that really, magically works. The film they’re in then mimics some key scenes, techniques and moments even better than the original films it is thenceforth parodying. I counted references or homages to: The Simpsons, Chinatown, Mad Max, Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, and a stack of other flicks, with varying degrees of funniness.

It’s idiotic to over-intellectualise the themes and elements within the flick, because I think that would require more time and intellectual effort than any of the principals put into constructing the film. They do, however, lovingly recreate the cheesiest moments of action films in the finale in a way that is meant to be a non-stop laugh from the opening gun salvo til the last body drops.

The magic of the climax is that it is so carefully put together and so lovingly over the top that you don’t even realise until afterwards that it is nowhere near as violent as it appears to be. It’s as if to make up for the (comparative) absence of guns from Shaun, where they played almost no part in a contemporary zombie flick, unlike every other one made in the same time period. It’s a funny ending, that is absolutely for sure.

I did get a few laughs, and more wry grins than anything else. I like these guys and I like what they were trying to do. It’s just that the flick is way too long and it tries too hard for its entire length. I’d watch it again, definitely, but even I have to admit that the lightning in a bottle quality of their first flick is only faintly present here.

Still, there's enough of it present to make it worth your while.

7 times you’re off the fucking chain out of 10
“Before you could say 'gypsy scum' we were knee-deep in dog muck, thieving kids and crusty jugglers.” – Hot Fuzz.