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Movie Review: Hot Fuzz

By Matthew Huntley

May 29, 2007

Bang, bang! What's that sound?!

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Oh, how I've been waiting for a movie to come along and directly make fun of Bad Boys II. That alone makes Hot Fuzz worth the price of admission. Here is a British comedy that looks down on (and up to) all the lame-brain Hollywood action movies of the past 20 years with both amusement and shame. Besides being laugh-out-loud funny, the movie is smart in its execution. It's not a parody like the Naked Gun or Scary Movie series; it's more complete and better written. It's a full-fledged action movie that lives by the genre's rules, but it's also cheerfully aware of itself. Hot Fuzz does for action what Scream did for horror.

Hollywood had Hot Fuzz coming for a while now. Since modern action pictures have gotten so silly and over-stylized, and sometimes even offensive in nature (see "Bad Boys II"), it's high time some ambitious filmmakers came along, foreigners no less, and asked directors like Michael Bay, are you for real?

The main targets here are buddy-cop movies that take themselves too seriously. You know the kind -their posters feature men with a machismo-complex contemplating taking the law into their own hands. They often wear sunglasses and appear in deep thought, looking off into the distance. The taglines read something like, "Now it's personal." Look at the poster of Hot Fuzz and you'll get the idea.

It's important to note the movie isn't mean in its approach. It's jolly and affectionate. I sensed the filmmakers weren't angry at the movies they victimize; they appreciate and admire them. Without movies like Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, and The Matrix, Hot Fuzz couldn't exist, so it pays rightful homage to its predecessors.

The director is Edgar Wright, whose Shaun of the Dead (2004) turned the zombie genre upside down by turning it into a matter-of-fact farce with a charming, dry wit. With "Hot Fuzz," Wright re-teams with his Shaun of the Dead star Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote both films. It's clear the two are on a roll in what's sure to be an elongated (and highly profitable) filmmaking partnership.




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Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a London police officer with an impeccable service record and an arrest rate that's 400% higher than anyone else on the force. His work has become his life and his superiors think he's too good at his job, so good, in fact, that he's making them look bad. They request he transfer to the quiet little village of Sandford, where the most serious crimes are under-age drinking and graffiti on public property. It's a far cry from the shoot-'em-up mean streets of London.

The Sandford police squad is nothing like Angel is used to. His new partner is the gluttonous but lovable Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), whom Angel busts for drunk driving and whose father is the chief inspector (Jim Broadbent). Danny believes Angel to be the kind of cop who's seen it all - shootouts, car chases, drug busts - everything that his huge collection of action-movie DVDs have promised really exist in the world of crime-fighting.

Angel and Danny find themselves in the middle of a bizarre murder investigation, where the killer runs around in a black cloak and offs seemingly random victims. This leads Angel to wonder if the quaint little town of Sandford may not be so innocent after all.

The violence in Hot Fuzz is completely outrageous, lurid and laughable. Even though it sets out to be farcical, it's as professionally executed as any John McTiernan or Tony Scott film. But director Wright doesn't allow the action to overshadow the humor. The two find a balance so the movie can pay heed to the rules of the action genre while at the same time deconstructing and lampooning it.

The memorable supporting cast, who all look like they're having loads of fun, includes former James Bond Timothy Dalton, Paul Freeman, Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Stuart Wilson and Edward Woodward (it's neat how the ending of this movie mirrors that of 1973's "The Wicker Man," which also starred Woodward).

If I wasn't laughing at the screen, I was smiling. Fans of Hollywood action movies owe it to themselves to see it, while non-fans will get a kick out of the way it fights back and ridicules antiquated conventions. As a brother of the movies it so flippantly mocks, Hot Fuzz"will surely be remembered as a creative satire that demands new rules be made for the action genre.


     


 
 

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