In 2004 a team of filmmakers brought us a truly original movie that knew how to hit our funny bone even as our heroes showered themselves in zombie blood. The film was Shaun of the Dead, and the gang who made it all happen are back again, but this time they’re after a whole different kind of monster: in Hot Fuzz writer/director Edgar Wright and writer/actor Simon Pegg are gunning for that bloated, over-hyped, behemoth known as the action movie.
Pegg stars as Nicholas Angel, an all-star Lodon cop who routinely puts the entire force to shame with his perfect arrest record. That all changes when his superiors decide to get rid of the embarrassment of Angel’s perfect record by sending him to the sleepy town of Sandford where there hasn’t been a reported crime in years. At least, that’s the way it looks, but when Angel and his new action-movie obsessed partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) start digging deeper they discover the makings of a horrific serial killer tormenting the city.
As the one-liners roll, and the blood pours, you can’t help but laugh at the way Wright, Pegg and crew drop an explosive action film into a tiny town in the middle of the English countryside.
This isn’t your normal action movie though, and it’s not even the kind of spoof you might expect. Wright and Pegg make sure you know it every moment they can. The classic music stings jolt you every few minutes for no apparent reason, grisly deaths get the ridiculous treatment of spraying blood and gruesome expressions, and the dialogue is peppered with in-jokes and sly references to movies like Die Hard and Bad Boys 2. All the while Pegg recreates every action hero you’ve ever seen, eyeing suspicious characters knowingly and leaping into action like a true star.
Pegg is as brilliant as ever, and Frost jokes his way through every scene, but some of the most scene-stealing performances come from bright, but brief cameos. Timothy Dalton chews the scenery as the villainous Simon Skinner, Jim Broadbent plays the happy-go-lucky Inspector Butterman, Bill Nighy makes a brief appearance as the London Chief Inspector, and Cate Blanchett even shows up briefly as Angel’s ex, Jeanine.
What gets in the way of all those performances is the almost manic, and jolting editing work of Chris Dickens. For a while, it’s funny, and even energizing to see Dickens lampoon any number of films that share the same frantic editing style, but by the time you reach the half-way mark the only thing that can really be said about the editing is that it’s kind of annoying. After two hours you zone out of the editing a bit, but it still takes you out of the story far too often.
Hot Fuzz is a hilarious film, head and shoulders above just about any comedy I’ve seen in months, but there is something mildly grating about the whole experience. While Shaun of the Dead felt genuinely compelling, both for its performances and overall comic style, Hot Fuzz comes off a bit like a madly cloying attempt at being one of those smart ass films you’re not sure you want to see again. I actually want to see it again, and while it’s not an unpleasant film by any stretch of the imagination, I can’t help but wonder if the crew missed their mark by going too far without backing it all up with a few original ideas.
Maybe it’s just the fact that the film is two hours long; maybe it’s the editing, or the script; maybe it’s the fact that Frost doesn’t get as good a part as he had in Shaun of the Dead, but I just couldn’t get into this film. Sure, it’s a funny movie that gives Hollywood action films a few good jabs, but those zombies definitely had more heat than all the fuzz in this film.
Review copyright W. Andrew Powell
Image courtesy of Odeon Films.