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Film Review: Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz (2007; Directed by Edgar Wright)

The Wright/Pegg/Frost creative team takes a further step towards becoming the finest comic filmmakers out of Britain since the Pythons with this energetic send-up of action blockbusters and buddy-cop movies. As hilarious and prodigiously entertaining as Hot Fuzz is from its opening moments, it’s the density of visual detail, the genre-collapsing energy, and the intense intertextual intelligence being displayed that sets it apart from, well, basically anything else, including its cult-classic predecessor.

Much like that predecessor, the mildly overrated Shaun of the Dead, was both a parody of zombie movies and an honest homage to the genre, Hot Fuzz references American cop action flicks (sometimes directly, often cleverly and obliquely) while professing an unabashed love for their mindless but rousing violent streak. The fact that the explosions and shoot-outs and punch-ups are set in the idyllic English countryside raises them to the level of satiric absurdity, certainly. But the film is always playing both sides, nimbly and effectively.

But its plot is not as simple as this description may seem, mind you. Simon Pegg is Nicholas Angel, a tremendously dedicated and, indeed, over-effective officer for the London Metropolitan Police. His aggressive hypercompetence at his job embarrasses his Scotland Yard superiors (a trio of cameos that, if you haven’t seen the movie, I wouldn’t dream of giving away to a British entertainment fan), who transfer him to a cozy Gloucestershire town called Sandford. Angel has trouble adjusting to the more casual rhythms of small-town policing, chafing under the cake-dispensing glad-handery of the local inspector (Jim Broadbent, ever wonderful) and the action-flick-bred enthusiasm for the possibility of crime-busting violence of the inspector’s son Danny (Nick Frost). But the superficial gentleness of Sandford conceals a dark and deadly conspiracy to retain the town’s model English village reputation, and the town’s prominent citizens (led by a deliciously smarmy Timothy Dalton as the owner of the local supermarket) will use any force necessary to prevent Angel from exposing and defeating their circle of local control.

As may be apparent, beyond all of the glorious comedic action (Wright understands well that action movie fans, like zombie nuts, are quite happy to laugh at the proceedings), there’s a cunning satire of the English rural perspective in play in Hot Fuzz, as well as of the insular functioning of smaller communities. The Kinks’ “Village Green Preservation Society” shows up on the soundtrack, and the film offers a twisted take on the tune’s iconic subject: the beautified country town that feels itself the very representation of all that is traditionally English, a shiny facade that conceals old-fashioned parochial prejudices against modernity, discrimination of cultural difference, and a general hegemony of conformity.

So there’s a meaning hiding beneath the finely-tuned buffoonery, whizzing bullets, crunching punches, and spurting action blood. It can be a bit heavy-handed, though it’s imparted more slickly and with greater verve than the anti-consumerist assumptions of Shaun of the Dead. But the message is muscular and well-rounded, and is interwoven tightly enough with the entertaining veneer of the material that it never detracts but only deepens. Hot Fuzz balances its literal and figurative content as well as it balances its satire and homages, an impressive achievement considering its inexorable momentum and rapid-fire comic inventiveness.

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Categories: Film, Reviews

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