Reel Opinions

Monday, May 28, 2007

Hot Fuzz

Before I begin this review, I would like to state a very simple truth. Anyone who has ever done a parody movie, or is even thinking of doing a parody movie someday in the future, needs to see Hot Fuzz. After a long string of failures that include the Scary Movies, Date Movie, and Epic Movie, here is one that finally gets it right. It understands that it's not funny just to reference hundreds of popular movies in your film, while throwing in the occasional fart joke here and there. Hot Fuzz is generally funny, consistently entertaining, and is the best example of the genre since the glory days of the Zucker Brothers (Airplane, The Naked Gun). Director and co-writer Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) has proven beyond all reasonable doubt that he is the new master of the genre.

Expertly skewering every overblown violent cop movie made in the last 20 years or so, Hot Fuzz follows cocky young police Sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), who is undoubtedly the best in the business. His track record of arrests, public service, and helping his fellow man so outshadows the rest of the entire London Police force that he's made every other officer look bad in comparison. That's why Nicholas finds himself transferred to the sleepy little English village of Sandford, a town that prides itself on being one of the best places to live, and where the biggest event of the day is that a local swan has escaped from its holding pen and is running loose on the streets. Nicholas is partnered with a jovial and not very bright officer named Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), and tries to prepare himself for a life far from the action he's used to back in London. However, shortly after his arrival, a series of bizarre murders performed by a mysterious assailant dressed in a black cloak and hood start popping up all over the town. Nicholas is shocked to learn that the police are content to simply brush these murders off as "accidents", as there hasn't been a murder in Sandford for years. (Oddly enough, while Sandford has the lowest murder rate, it has the highest accident rate.) Nicholas' search for the truth will lead him to discover a dark truth that everyone in town seem all too willing to ignore.

In spoofing the action film genre, Hot Fuzz takes aim at such "classics" as Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys II, Mission Impossible II, and Point Break. Fortunately, screenwriters Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg know that doing a parody film is more than just referencing as many movies as possible. They build an actual story and characters that we can care about and like around the lampooning of big budget fare. Nicholas Angel and his partner on the force, Danny Butterman, have an immediately likeable Odd Couple-style relationship that is naturally appealing. It's true that the actors portraying the characters, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, worked together before in Shaun of the Dead, but their relationship here still manages to be fresh. This is not a retread of their previous performance, and they are able to create completely different characters and an entirely new relationship for them to play off of each other. They create a genuine partnership that we can attach ourselves to, and so we are willing to follow them, no matter how ludicrous the story may get. The town of Sandford is made up of some likeably goofy characters as well, such as the overly friendly head police Inspector at the station (Jim Broadbent), and the somewhat suspicious owner of a local supermarket (Timothy Dalton) who always seems to conveniently show up at the scene of the murder, sometimes listening to a song on his car stereo tied into the killing.

More than the characters, the movie itself is just hilarious. There are a number of comic moments that had me laughing like few recent films can. The sequence where Nicholas must question a resident who speaks with such a thick accent that he can't even be understood, so the man must be translated by another officer who speaks with a slightly less thicker, but still indecipherable, accent, who must in turn by translated by Nicholas' partner Danny so that Nicholas can even understand what everyone is saying is a prime example of the comedic timing present in the film. Other moments of inspired lunacy include a production of Romeo and Juliet that seems a bit too inspired by the modern day update film released in the mid 90s that starred Leonardo DiCaprio, and the brilliant opening sequence that skewers the rapid-fire editing and cliches of most modern day cop films. However, nothing will prepare you for the film's final half hour. I will not reveal anything, but I will say that the film pulls out all the stops here, and officially becomes one of the most over the top hilarious movies I can ever recall in recent memory. The climax is certainly violent, but is done with such a wink and a goofy grin that we never become offended, and the movie receives the reaction of uproarious laughter that it's aiming for.
There's really no question that Hot Fuzz is the funniest comedy to be released so far this year. I've been hearing a lot of heavy pre-release hype for next weekend's release of Knocked Up. I won't find out until then how well that hype holds up, but for now, Hot Fuzz definitely takes the crown. This is one of those movies where you find yourself laughing all the way through, even at the little things. And while not all of the gags work, there's always another one less than a minute away that does. If every comedy had the brains, skill, and expertise that Hot Fuzz posessess, I'd be a much happier filmgoer.



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