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Non-Review Review: Hot Fuzz

“You haven’t seen Bad Boys II?” a character states in complete disbelief to police man officer Nicolas Angel. I’m fairly sure that Hot Fuzz is consistently clever and entertaining even if you’re never seen a testosterone-laden big-budget explosive action cop movie, but Edgar Wright’s parody/homage is absolutely ingenious to anyone remotely familiar with the concept. At its most basic, the movie asks what would happen if you asked Michael Bay to make a balls-to-the-wall action movie in a small English village. The result might look a little bit like this, but I bet it wouldn’t be half as charming.

Timothy Dalton takes the biscuit...

Watching Shaun of the Dead for zombie week! a few weeks back prompted me to break out the second collaboration between director Edgar Wright, his lead and co-writer Simon Pegg and co-star Nick Frost. The movie follows tough as nails inner-city London copper Nicolas Angel, an officer with a 400% higher conviction rate than any of his colleagues, as he is promoted and reassigned… to the village of Stanford. Oh, in case you needed proof that the collaborators had done their home work, Stanford is the fictional village used for real UK police exercises.

What follows is half fish-out-of-water comedy, half sinister-conspiracy spoof and half small-country-life satire. Yes, I realise that’s three halves, but the movie is just that awesome. Wright and Pegg clearly work well together. While they both reached international fame taking the core clichés of the zombie genre and blending them with British romantic comedy, here they take the sort of quaint countryside nostalgia of shows like Heartbeat and merge it with the big budget explosive action of films like The Rock. This is a precinct where the biggest disturbance of the week is a farmer “clipping hedgerows that don’t belong to him”, populated with a police officer who has been decorated for his extensive anti-riot work.

At the same time, the movie effortless captures the suffocating experience of small-town life, at least in Ireland and Great Britain. It isn’t necessarily a conscious oppression, just a tacit acknowledgement that things have worked a particular way for generations, and they aren’t exactly going to change now. It’s the type of mentality to which a person who wasn’t born there will always, whether consciously or not, be an outsider and “he isn’t even from ’round here!” can form a reasonable response to any argument made by a person outside the community. Wright and Pegg capture that sort of spirit nearly perfectly on film – if they weren’t so damn fun, it’d be tragic.

Swanning about...

Wright shows off his skills as a director here. He makes it look like he’s working on a budget similar to Bay, even though we know that he can’t be. He has the action director’s style down perfectly, so much so that if it wasn’t from the surroundings you could be fooled into thinking you were watching the smartest Michael Bay movie you’re ever seen. Wright does borrow a stylish trick from his earlier scene – the delivery of mundane activities to an incredibly epic delivery (with “whap!” sound effects and quick cuts) – but it’s a neat enough trick that you don’t mind. There isn’t as huge a stylistic divide between Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz – well, at least not quite as large as between Hot Fuzz and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. However, there’s still a bigger difference than the vast majority of directors will make in their careers, so I can’t complain.

However, Wright’s key strength here is his casting. Seriously, his casting is fantastic. Even the smaller roles are populated with sizzling British talent (including Paddy Considine) and international talent (see if you can spot Cate Blanchett or Peter Jackson), but his core cast includes the rather wonderful Jim Broadbent and Timothy Dalton. Timothy Dalton. Seriously, the man is amazing. I actually enjoyed his short (two movie) stint as Bond, but – if you believe he owes a debt for nearly killing the franchise – rest assured he settles it here. As Skinner, the manager of the local supermarket, Dalton just oozes sleazy charm (the moustache probably helps). I believe, without a shadow of a doubt, that his somewhat recent resurgence can be traced back to this one role.

Hot Fuzz is classic British comedy, but with a slightly international twist. I am a little curious to hear what the Americans made of the film, as it is clearly a parody of American cop movies as much as British country life. I think the fusion works in a wonderfully demented way, but I wonder what other viewers from across the Atlantic might make of it.

4 Responses

  1. Wow…you make way better review than me. I’m still waiting for the 3rd series of this blood and ice cream trilogy.

  2. Dalton is so much fun in this role. “I’m a slasher… of prices!”

  3. I’ve been living in America for almost 2 decades and yes it definitely pokes fun of American cop movies which I thought is hilarious! I didn’t get the British country life part until I read about it here, but I think you’ve got a point there.

    Glad to hear all the love for Dalton. He is really one of the best parts of the movie… I am so glad he’s slowly getting back to mainstream cinema. I wish he’d get a lead role or his own TV show real soon! 🙂

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