As the lead character in the new comedy Hot Fuzz, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is what you might call a hard ass. He’s a by-the-book, one man London police machine with a 400% higher arrest rate than any other officer in the city. His reward for a job well done? A promotion to sergeant – and a transfer to the middle of nowhere. Why? Because he’s making everyone else look bad, of course. It turns out, no one likes a hard ass.
His destination is Sandford, a sleepy rural village more interested in maintaining its title “Village of the Year” than actually solving crime. Here he’s partnered up with the Inspector’s son, thick and thick-witted PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) whose notion of police work was gleaned from repeated viewings of Point Break, Bad Boys 2, Lethal Weapon and Die Hard. Unfortunately for Danny, in Sandford there isn’t much call for high speed pursuits or jumping through the air while firing two guns.
Things are looking grim for the two partners until a cloaked murderer shows up and the body count starts to rise. Will Nick learn to break the rules and will Danny learn to be a real policeman? Will anyone figure out why the town’s crime rate is zero but the accident rate is through the roof? Most importantly, will it be funny?
The short answer: Yes, yes, yes and yes.
The longer answer: Yes, yes, yes and yessssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss.
Brimming with visual and verbal references to other films like Chinatown, Lethal Weapon, The French Connection and GoodFellas – Hot Fuzz is an affectionate send-up of police action movies. It strikes sort of an agreeable, English accented, Police Squad! tone – not that it relies on that TV show’s sight gags and puns, but that the actors deliver often silly material with a completely straight face. This is a parody, but it’s as if no one told the actors and it works brilliantly. It’s also refreshing in that it isn’t looking down on its characters or source material. You have the feeling the creators have a genuine soft spot for the very films they’re making fun of.
Those creators are writer/star Simon Pegg and writer/director Edgar Wright who also made Shaun of the Dead. Though they’re digging for comedy gold in two different genres, it’s probably safe to say fans of Shaun will also enjoy Hot Fuzz. I don’t want to give away any of the jokes and comedy is subjective of course, but I laughed a lot and so did the audience I saw it with. The laughs tapered off after the first 45 minutes or so, but they picked right up again in the final 30 minutes.
Though the film relies on very funny supporting work from Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton and Paddy Considine (plus several amusing billed and unbilled cameos) the heart of the film lies with Pegg and Frost. In less talented hands, the characters of Nicholas and Danny might come off as an asshole and a dope, but you actually root for these guys and want them to succeed. Plus they’re funny as hell. So many comedies fail by delivering humor while forgetting about the characters, but Hot Fuzz delivers on both counts.
Also noteworthy is the soundtrack featuring songs by The Kinks, The Troggs, Adam Ant, Supergrass and XTC.
As Danny Butterman would say: Hot Fuzz is off the fuckin’ chain.
Hot Fuzz: UK 2007. Directed by Edgar Wright. Written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg. Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine and Edward Woodward. 2 hours 1 minute. MPAA rating: R for violent content including some graphic images, and language. 4 stars (out of 5)