“Hot Fuzz” is the latest offering from the writer/director team of Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright, whose last collaboration was 2004’s brilliant zombie-romantic comedy “Shaun of the Dead”. This time the duo turns to lampooning the police buddy action genre, but they also have an ulterior motive: to create a British-made action movie that’s actually worth watching. Unfortunately, in attempting to conflate laugh-a-minute parody with explosively stylish action, Pegg and Wright have only succeeded halfway.
The plot should be instantly recognisable to anyone familiar with police movies: hard-edged cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is busted down from the squad in London and relocated to the much more mundane town of Sandford in the heart of the British countryside. There, he is teamed up with the gormless, childish police constable Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). However, when a series of mysterious murders shock the village, the mismatched officers become unlikely friends while attempting to get to the bottom of the killings.
In terms of plot, tone, music and cinematography, “Hot Fuzz” is almost entirely parodied and referenced from a multitude of action movies spanning back at least 20 years. And, in creating the look and feel of a glossy Hollywood action movie, “Fuzz” is about as close to perfection as possible. Wright has done a stand-up job in taking a well-loved genre and infusing it with the melancholy British viewpoint, creating a film that looks American but is still uniquely British.
Wright’s quick cuts and fast-paced montages allow the film to trundle along at a steady pace for the first hour. This is aided by some stellar performances by the cast: Nick Frost is consistently funny as the aptly named constable Danny Butterman, Jim Broadbent brings a certain amount of deadpan comedy to the proceedings as Danny’s father Frank Butterman, and former James Bond Timothy Dalton is both creepy and hilarious as lead antagonist Simon Skinner. Brit comedy fans should also get a kick out of brief yet memorable cameos from comedy veterans Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Bailey. And look out for a blink-and-you’ll miss it cameo from “Lord of the Rings” director Peter Jackson, portraying a psychopathic Santa Clause.
Despite all this, “Fuzz” runs out of steam come the halfway point, and simply gets lost in its own plot. Without giving away too much of the outcome, some of the twists that the movie takes are not only a little hard to swallow, but also rooted too much in the occult to fit into a police action film. On top of this, Simon Pegg is far too wooden in his portrayal of Nicholas Angel. Although this can be seen as homage to Clint Eastwood’s wooden portrayal of Harry Callahan in the infamous “Dirty Harry” films, Simon Pegg lacks the screen presence of Eastwood to pull it off. Suffice to say, when Pegg turns on the emotion later in the movie, it is entirely unconvincing, as Angel is set up to have all the emotion of a mannequin.
Although “Hot Fuzz” depends on parody for laughs (which will no doubt have film geeks chuckling in their seats), it lacks the kind of laugh-out-loud lampooning present in previous police action parodies like “The Naked Gun” movies. The “Gun” films were also executed with an omnipresent air of silliness that “Fuzz” doesn’t hold a thin candle to. Most of the laugh out loud moments in “Fuzz” comes from the occasionally ridiculous level of gore, but these moments are few and far between. Using gore for laughs is a familiar technique, one used by Takashi Miike in the likes of “Dead or Alive” and “Ichi the Killer”; the difference is that Miike managed to juggle comedy, action and drama in a manner which Wright and Pegg could only aspire to.
The bottom line is that, although funny in spots, “Hot Fuzz” simply does not work as well as it should, or is as funny as it should have been. It would be a better comedy if it wasn’t so plot-heavy, and a better action movie if it weren’t so reliant on parody. For a fan of “Shaun of the Dead”, “Hot Fuzz” comes as somewhat of a disappointment, as it fails to fulfil its potential. However, it still manages to be the best British-made action film I have ever seen. For two hours of fairly solid entertainment, you could do a lot worse.
Edgar Wright (director) / Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg (screenplay)
CAST: Simon Pegg … Sergeant Nicholas Angel
Nick Frost … PC Danny Butterman
Bill Bailey … Sergeant Turner
Tim Barlow … Treacher
Jim Broadbent … Inspector Frank Butterman