In your typical American spoof of an over-amped, testosterone-pegged action film, the standing cliché seems to be to cast the hero as an incompetent bore, an anti-intellectual simpleton who bumbles his way through a handful of elaborately staged but unimaginative stunt scenes. Also, someone usually gets kicked in the crotch; often more than one someone.
Hot Fuzz, from the British creative team that brought us Shaun of the Dead, takes the exact opposite approach. Namely, they made a smart movie with a noticeable dearth of foot to testicle contact. Not surprisingly, it is a hell of a lot funnier than all three Rush Hour movies combined, even if you toss Delta Farce onto the scales.
Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a hyper-competent officer for London’s Metropolitan Police and his zeal for his job is starting to make his colleagues (and superiors) look bad by comparison. Their revenge is to promote him to Sergeant and exile him to the tiny, peaceful village of Sandford. Despondent but determined to uphold the same standards he had in London, Sgt. Angel has already rounded up a pub full of underage drinkers and busted a drunk driver before he even reports for duty.
Unfortunately, the drunk driver is the son of the local Chief Inspector (Jim Broadbent) and, even worse, his new partner. For his part, Officer Butterman (Nick Frost) is a simple young man whose primary source of law enforcement knowledge seems to come from movies like Point Break and Bad Boys II. He’s dazzled by the new sergeant from the big city and peppers him with questions about how Angel’s real life experiences compared to the movies.
Most of the actual policing in Sandford seems to be done by what’s called the “Neighbourhood Watch Alliance,” a collection of fussy local civic leaders who are more concerned with jugglers and street mimes than underage drinking. It seems that Sandford is a perpetual winner of the “Best Village in England” award and keeping that title is more important than the things that a big city cop like Angel would think are important.
Not long after Angel arrives, several local citizens perish in a series of grisly “accidents” that the sergeant begins to suspect may be murders. He has no evidence and the other officers, who resent the big city cop telling them how to do their job, savagely mock his certainty.
If you’ve ever sat through the blinding stupidity of a typical Michael Bay or Tony Scott film, Hot Fuzz will have you giggling like schoolboy almost from the first frame. The cinematography and editing are absolutely spot-on parodies of those movies. Even the most mundane moment of the film is punctuated by dramatic camera angles, quick cuts and wooshing sound effects.
Set against the pounding action film spoof is a gentler parody of the small town mysteries typified by shows like the Inspector Morse series. Sandford is peopled by a wide variety of stereotypically eccentric Brits, all of whom begin to fall under Angel’s suspicious gaze, especially Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), the slightly sinister owner of the local market (“I’m a slasher. . . of prices!”).
True to its source material, the last act of Hot Fuzz is a non-stop gun battle that ranges all across the tiny village. The action does not spring at all organically from the story, but of course in this movie, that’s entirely the point. Virtually every tired cliché of our action movies gets to be a punch line here.
A word to the wise, this movie honestly comes by its R rating here in the States. When I said the locals were dying in “grisly” accidents, I was not exaggerating. The violence in Hot Fuzz is graphic and over-the-top. However, it is so overblown that the effect is comic and not all that horrifying.
If you are a fan of action movies, you will find the satire in Hot Fuzz to be slashing (pardon the pun) but not condescending. Writer Pegg and writer-director Edgar Wright made this movie out of their love for this kind of movie, not contempt. Of course, if you think Bad Boys I and II are both crimes against Western civilization, you will also find plenty to enjoy here. Hot Fuzz both acknowledges and celebrates the stupidity of its inspirations.