HOT FUZZ REVIEW
In a recent interview Pegg, Frost and Wright told me the worst mistake they made re: Hot Fuzz was putting fans on notice so early about the project. With nothing to show off but a concept (albeit a good one that sounded right up their alley) the creators of Shaun of the Dead realized that by tipping their hand they had set off a frenzy of fan speculation and expectation. In other words- it really, really wasn't going to do to put out an okay followup to Shaun. So what's the verdict? After setting themselves an almost impossible task the trio is now poised for a hat trick. Hot Fuzz isn't a film without problems but its charms far outweigh them.
Shaun of the Dead was pitch-perfect in every respect running from high impossibly grotesque hilarity to moments of pretty intense even moving character development. Characters grow and change, a lot. And the movie is full of resonant revelations when characters don't change. Shaun, in short, is that rarest of films, one really can't imagine it being any better. Hot Fuzz is far more ambitious tackling the comedy, the mystery, the action thriller and the horror movie all in one go. The fact that it doesn't completely succeed distracts from the more important issue. This is by far the funniest action film you'll see this year and the most action packed comedy as well. All that keeps it from perfection is its overblown desire to please. Pegg and Wright avoid writing themselves into corners with the labyrinthine plot they but even though they manage to tie up their loose ends the character development in this film leaves a bit to be desired. We know, way too early where most everyone is going to wind up and the lessons they will have learned which makes the journey from A to Z a little less satisfying than we suspect it could have been. As a spoof of cop buddy films this is a classic, it won't rewrite a genre the way Shaun did, but it will bear repeat viewings.
Describing the plot to you would be wrong for all sorts of reasons the first being I would need 4 Tylenol and a Mountain Dew to cure my aching head. We start by following the career of Sergeant Nicholas Angel London's Top Cop. The trouble is, as he learns, he is so devoted, so professional, so efficient, he makes everyone else on the force look like slackers giving the man in charge Chief Inspector Kenneth (in a too brief appearance by Bill Nighy) no choice but to try and whip the rest of the force into shape! No, actually that might have been funny as well, but instead he and the other mucky mucks, in a very funny sequence, quietly transfer Angel to the quietest little village on the map. Once Angel arrives he's not a just a fish out of water, he's basically stuffed and mounted with nothing to do but not fit in until that is, a series of mysterious murders begins to look more and more like a conspiracy that reaches all the way to the top!.
As fish out of water scenarios go this is a fine setup, well handled. But where it goes from there is the stuff of late night writing sessions, hangovers, cries of “Eureka,” and muttering while huddling in corners in the fetal position. You could do worse than to watch Bad Boys II, Point Break, The French Connection, Chinatown, The Wicker Man, The Omen, An American Werewolf in London, Lethal Weapon, Goodfellas, and about a dozen other films if you want to catch all the connections, nods, homage and riffing but good luck. There are so many references it's inhuman to think a single viewing will give the viewer time to catch them. Besides the viewer should be paying attention to other things. Pegg is great as Angel and he's surrounded by wonderful character actors who all look like they're having the time of their lives. The name talent is forced to play to type here in order to spoof the genre but the cast couldn't be any stronger. Frost is given what could have been a rather thankless role demanding he limit himself to playing the dumb but loveable second banana but as expected mines laughs out of almost every scene he's in. Pegg and Frost bear comparison with the comedy teams of legend. A few more movies like this under their belt and they might just eclipse some of them. Jim Broadbent fits his role as head of the village force to a T. especially when he's wearing a Cowboy Woody costume. Likewise Paddy Considine who masterfully parodies a character we've seen before and Timothy Dalton who brings the slimy grocery store owner Simon Skinner to gleefully eccentric possibly murderous life.
If one can't help but feel that the ending was a little too predictable I suppose a strong argument can be made that this was intentional, that almost all of these kinds of cop films proceed towards a predestined well worn end. At least Hot Fuzz has the ammunition to mow us down with its outrageousness. No matter how big a geek you are there are moments in the film almost guaranteed to make you say, “They did not just do that did they?!” In the end my summation is this. If Shaun of the Dead is a great, truly great, zombie film in a crowded field, Hot Fuzz is a good, truly good cop buddy thriller spoof, but doesn't tell as great of a story. Will I go again? I did- last night in fact. Would I own it? Absolutely. Am I keeping the t-shirt and Sandford Police Badge I got my hands on. Yaarp! Am I hoping that this team will not ended up haunted for having made only one truly great genre redefining film? Double yarp! In a landscape where opening weekend is everything, Hot Fuzz might not prove hot enough to break this team into the mainstream but it should. Any other audience reaction would be simply criminal.