Director: Edgar Wright
Every genre has a number of sub-genres, some more prevalent and noticeable than others. Take, for example, action movies. There's numerous styles of action movies, but few are more clichéd the "buddy cop" movie. Movies like Point Break, Die Hard With A Vengeance, and the 48 Hrs., Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys, and Rush Hour franchises are all about a duo (one or both of whom are a police officer) that get into a few gunfights and car chases, cause lots of explosions and chaos and mayhem, and save the day without a moment's hesitation. After successfully lampooning horror movies in their marvelous British zombie flick Shaun of the Dead, Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost teamed up once again to give American action movies the same treatment with Hot Fuzz. And just like their previous movie, Hot Fuzz is nothing short of spectacular.
Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the perfect police officer. So perfect, in fact, that he manages to outclass and outperform every other officer on London's Metropolitan Police Service on a regular basis. His mind-boggling overachievement earns him not only a promotion to the rank of sergeant, but a transfer as well. Angel's superiors have decided to reassign him to a town where he won't be able to make them look bad anymore: Sandford, a sleepy rural community that appears to be virtually devoid of any crime whatsoever. Once he arrives in town, he's immediately enforcing the law, clearing out a pub full of underage drinkers and arresting someone for drunk driving. Turns out that the drunk driver is his new partner, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the naïve but enthusiastic son of the local police chief (Jim Broadbent). A devoted fan of police-centered action movies, particularly Point Break and Bad Boys 2, Danny is completely in awe of Angel, who he believes lives a life as dangerous and as exciting as the lives of his favorite movie characters.
But as the two new partners bond, Angel finds himself having a rough time adapting to his new, simpler life in Sandford. Outside of writing parking tickets, catching shoplifters, reprimanding a farmer for illegally clipping a neighbor's hedges before discovering a massive cache of unlicensed weaponry in his barn, and tracking down the occasional lost swan, nothing of note happens in Sandford. That is, until the murders begin. The small town is rocked by a series of violent deaths that, despite all evidence pointing towards foul play, are dismissed as tragic accidents, with only Angel convinced that these accident victims were murdered. As he tries to get to the bottom of things, the fact that people just aren't murdered in Sandford causes his fellow police officers to relentlessly mock his overzealousness even in the face of the bizarre, unlikely explanations for these so-called "accidents." But Angel remains undaunted, vowing to catch the killer even if it costs him his reputation (or worse). But just who is the murderer? Is it Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), the sleazy supermarket owner that's way too suspicious for his own good? Could it be one of Sandford's more eccentric residents? Or could it be someone else entirely?
Hot Fuzz is quite similar to Shaun of the Dead, in that both of them successfully and hilariously satirize their chosen genres before actually becoming a great genre film in and of themselves. And although Hot Fuzz doesn't hit start really going wild with the action stuff until the last thirty minutes, it's an amazing twist on all the silly conventions that appear in every movie like this. Until then, it's a pretty straightforward murder mystery. That's the great thing about Hot Fuzz, too. Recent parodies the Scary Movie franchise, Date Movie, Epic Movie have no respect for the movies they mock, just stringing things along from one weak gag to the next with nothing remotely resembling a story. Hot Fuzz, on the other hand, actually crafts a story and lets the humor develop naturally from that. It has a sly intelligence that, although it pokes fun at the silliness recurrent in other cop movies, also exhibits why the filmmakers love these movies so much. The best kind of parodies are the ones that draw humor from imitating clichés, not denigrating them. That's why the brains behind Hot Fuzz have been making such great comedies, because they understand that.
The direction by Edgar Wright is wonderful, teaming with cinematographer Jess Hall to visually reference the style of various directors to emphasize the movie's satirical nature. The fast-paced style of Tony Scott's Man on Fire and Domino are humorously referenced in scenes that would be considered mundane otherwise, while they use the murder mystery angle to work in visual nods to Alfred Hitchcock's Frenzy, Roman Polanski's Repulsion, and Dario Argento's Italian giallo movies. Wright also uses music to emphasize things, using certain songs by various British rock bands to add either humor or a certain semblance of dread (or both) to particular scenes. For example, the character of Simon Skinner drives by the locations of the murders while listening to music that oddly coincides with the victims or how they met their end. It really enhances the sleaziness of the character, which I'm sure is what Wright was aiming for. And Wright's use of certain bits of music taken directly from action movies such as the music from the trailers for all four Lethal Weapon movies also really enhances the satire as a whole. The score composed by David Arnold also successfully imitates the typical music heard in action movies, enhancing the exciting and dramatic scenes as necessitated and being quite effective in the process.
The screenplay pegged by Wright and Simon Pegg is also thoroughly spectacular. Things really don't start getting crazy-go-nuts until the last thirty minutes of the movie, but that's not to say that the first ninety aren't worth watching. The movie is very much driven by its characters and its plot, and neither are letdowns. Each of the characters has something about them that makes them worth watching, and the dialogue is full of lines worth quoting once the end credits have rolled. Wright and Pegg also set up numerous gags, both visual and through dialogue, that end up coming back at later points in the movie to humorous effect. And while the humor during the first hour and a half is a tad more restrained than the over-the-top finale, the whole thing is comic gold.
Wright and Pegg also make sure to reference various action movie standards, from character constructs to one-liners to how the action goes down. There are also numerous subtle jabs at these clichés too, especially the "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" relationship between Angel and Danny. It seems like a lot of these "buddy cop" movies have a faint homoerotic subtext, whether it's intentional or not. Wright and Pegg seem to have noticed that, and the duo have Angel and Danny share numerous moments that would seemingly lead to a lurid encounter. But things stay purely platonic, which only makes the whole thing that much funnier.
Last but not least is Hot Fuzz's amazing cast. The team of Pegg and Nick Frost make the entire movie, as the pair have a spectacular comedic chemistry together. Separately, they're just as entertaining. Pegg is fantastic portraying Angel as a straight-laced, tough-as-nails supercop that's so devoted to upholding the law that he has no clue how to loosen up, while Frost plays Danny with a childlike enthusiasm that makes the character thoroughly loveable. But let's not forget the rest of the cast, either. Timothy Dalton gleefully plays the role of Simon Skinner, almost as if he were Snidely Whiplash come to life. Jim Broadbent is warm and amiable, and Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, and Olivia Colman are a lot of fun as members of the Sandford police force. Colman's character's double entendres and the smart-alecky antagonism of Considine and Spall's characters toward Angel and Danny are some of the movie's lesser-acknowledged highlights, and the performances of the actors make that so. Even the cameos from well-known names like Bill Nighy and Cate Blanchett are great.
Hot Fuzz might be considered a parody of action movies, but it's about a much a parody of those films as Chicken Run is a parody of World War 2 prisoner-of-war movies. It's more of a comedic homage to movies of a similar style, but even if it's considered a parody, I'm willing to bet that Hot Fuzz is better than most of the action movies that it imitates. It's phenomenal from start to finish, an entertaining movie that's worth being watched by both fans of action movies and comedies. Shaun of the Dead was a tough act to follow, but Wright, Pegg, and Frost pulled it off nicely. I'm giving Hot Fuzz four and a half stars and a hearty seal of approval.
Final Rating: ****½