Should I Watch..? 'Hot Fuzz'
What's the big deal?
Hot Fuzz is a British action comedy film released in 2007 and is inspired by the buddy-cop movies usually seen being produced by Hollywood. The film reunites the two lead actors from Shaun Of The Dead - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost - with that film's director Edgar Wright. This film also acts as the second entry in the so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy with Shaun Of The Dead and The World's End. Released to a positive reception from critics, the film went on to become the most financially successful of the three films with more than $80 million in worldwide takings - not bad on a relatively modest budget of just $12 million. In addition to Pegg and Frost, the film also stars Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, Edward Woodward and Rafe Spall as well as numerous cameos from the world of British entertainment.
What's it about?
All-action supercop Nicholas Angel is transferred from the Metropolitan Police in London to the sleepy West Country village of Sandford, statistically the safest place in the whole country. Partnered with local constable Danny Butterman, Nicholas finds the local force lazy and incompetent while his natural crime-fighting abilities are wasted on minor incidents like chasing escaped swans and hobnobbing with the local neighbourhood watch scheme, the NWA.
However, the village is rocked by several gruesome murders and Nicholas suspects a vicious serial killer. Despite the objections of his commanding officer Inspector Frank Butterman, Nicholas and Danny slowly begin to build a case against slimy owner of the local supermarket Simon Skinner with the aim being to have him brought to justice before the judges of the Village Of The Year competition roll into town. But the truth is far more disturbing than Nicholas ever imagined...
Sergeant Nicholas Angel
PC Danny Butterman
Inspector Frank Butterman
DS Andy Wainwright
DC Andy Cartwright
Prof. Tom Weaver
Edgar Wright & Simon Pegg
Release Date (UK)
14th February, 2007
What's to like?
Anyone familiar with Shaun Of The Dead will instantly recall the dynamic comedy connection between Pegg and Frost and I'm delighted to report that it remains intact here. What makes it different this time is the clash of characters - Pegg's role is one of a by-the-book but extremely effective action hero while Frost is a bumbling rural constable obsessed with action movies like Point Break and Bad Boys II. They could carry the film on their own, to be honest, but backed up with an experienced and talented supporting cast, the film is deeply enjoyable from start to finish. A special mention to Dalton, Broadbent and Rory McCann as supermarket assistant "Lurch" - each one brings a devilish sense of mischief to the film that's hard to resist.
Like their earlier effort, Hot Fuzz probably works better on a British audience than an American one because US audiences are used to buddy-cop films with copious amounts of collateral damage and gory shootouts. But here in the UK, we don't really have much in that sort of style - Welcome To The Punch was such an ill-advised project that it would be a parody if it weren't so serious so it's good to see Wright deliver all the Hollywood clichés we've come to expect. It's so good that, once you've seen it, you might not look at movies like Lethal Weapon in quite the same way.
- Among the cameos are Peter Jackson as a stabbing Santa Claus and Cate Blanchett as Nicholas's ex-girlfriend Janine. Both are disguised and uncredited so keep your eyes peeled!
- The surnames of all the residents of Sandford are occupations - Cooper, Butcher, Weaver, etc. The only exception is that of the Buttermans because they were named by Nick Frost as a condition for accepting the role.
- Although Sandford is a fictional place, it was the name for a mock village used in training police at a training centre in Cheshire. The village could allow officers to deal with everyday criminal occurrences while residents of Sandford would be played by local volunteers.
What's not to like?
The issues come from the script, I'm afraid. While Shaun Of The Dead was a loving parody of zombie movies, it proved both original and influential in its own right as viewers of Zombieland will probably tell you. Hot Fuzz, unfortunately, lacks that critical element - it doesn't offer anything new to the action comedy genre that we haven't seen dozens of times before, even if it is poking its nose up at them. Only the location is different and that's only partly because Wright wanted to shoot in his hometown, I suspect. Let's be frank, Agatha Christie was writing about murderous locals in idyllic English villages back in the 1920s.
There are a couple of other more minor niggles I have to report. The film has too many references to Shaun Of The Dead like the fence scene which, while still funny, won't mean as much to anyone who hasn't seen that film. It doesn't feel as natural as before with performances and pacing coming across as more uneven - the ending seems to come out of nowhere and the film doesn't quite know when to end. But I'm being picky. Hot Fuzz is a great comedy with plenty to satisfy action lovers and gore hounds amid the banter between the two leads. Remind you of anything?
Should I watch it?
As quintessentially British as the Union Jack, Hot Fuzz offers viewers a knowing wink as it blows you away with explosive action, killer gags and possibly the best comedic duo at the helm since Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder. It lacks a little of the sharpness and originality of their first film together but fans of Shaun Of The Dead will get a real kick out of this.
Great For: fans of the Pegg/Frost/Wright triumvirate, action movie fans, coppers
Not So Great For: Hollywood clichés, other action comedies
What else should I watch?
If you're wondering why I mention Shaun Of The Dead more than the third Cornetto movie The World's End, there are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the first film is a wonderfully inventive and brilliantly subversive take on the traditional zombie survival film with generous flourishes of comedy and romance thrown in. It demonstrated Pegg and Frost's undeniable chemistry and aped the styles used in such films as Night Of The Living Dead before either men became go-to guys in Hollywood. Secondly, I haven't yet seen The World's End but by all accounts, it seems to match the standards of the other two films in the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.
Parody films often get sullied with a shoddy reputation due to formulaic films like the endless sequels to Scary Movie or woeful efforts like Disaster Movie which is as much fun as taking a baseball bat to your Joy Department. But there are some decent examples out there - Johnny English is a goofy spy spoof also made in the UK but for greatness, you'll struggle to beat the inspired Airplane! or The Naked Gun for gut-busting laughs.
© 2018 Benjamin Cox