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Hot Fuzz (2007)
15th Feb 07
“They’re Bad Boys. They’re Lethal Weapons. They’re Hot Fuzz.”
Tribute. Parody. Homage. However you look at it, 2007 is set to be the year that genre cinema finally eats itself. This summer, the Tarantino / Rodriguez Grindhouse juggernaut finally ‘drives-in’ (see what I did there?) to town. A reputed four-hour plus tribute that tips the hat to every schlocky sub-genre going, Grindhouse will supplement it’s double feature with a panoply of fanboy pant-soiling extras – including fake trailers in the drive-in style. Coincidentally one of those trailers will be helmed one Edgar Wright - Blighty's one man Sam Raimi / Peter Jackson schlockmeister. And hey – he just happens to have a new movie out this week. Called Hot Fuzz…
Yeah right, like you didn’t know. Since it’s been pretty much impossible to have not had your collar felt by these boys in blue for the past year - with on-set diaries and the like filtering through the web to the point where we all basically know what to expect - I’ll keep the details brief….
Pegg is PC Nicholas Angel, London’s finest – literally. With a 400 per cent arrest record (!) he’s hauled in by his superiors (the stellar comedy triumvate of Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy) who have decided that since he’s making them all look so bad he would be better suited to a new patch. Promoted to the leafy crime-free Somerset town of Sanford, Angel finds himself in a local yokel village where the chief (Jim Broadbent) serves cake to his coppers and lets all the underage kids in the town drink in the local to keep takings up. Sanford represents hell for the driven Angel, further compounded when he realises he’s to be teamed with the chief’s podgy layabout son Danny (Nick Frost). But things begin to look up when a series of bizarre and grisly accidents suggest that Sanford’s crime rate may not be as low as it seems…………
Building on the good vibes set up by SOTD, Wright, Pegg and Frost wisely decide not to mess with the formula here. They know their strengths and they play to them. In fact, aside from the sleepier setting and more measured pace, Fuzz is pretty much more of the same, only with a far broader frame of reference.
With SOTD Wright and Pegg aimed their double barrel comedy twelve gauge at one genre, hell, one oeuvre. Here they incorporate playful tributes to a range of genres and styles. Those expecting just an 80s buddy cop tribute may be surprised (and pleased) that the flick takes inspiration from other sources such as 70s policier, Agatha Christie movie adaptations, Italian giallo and cult British horror.
There are some flaws. The frenetic pacing of SOTD is largely jettisoned in favour of a more leisurely narrative, which starts to fall apart during a slack mid section. This jars too with Wright’s directorial style, which hasn’t evolved massively since Spaced – he’s still whip pan Wright, with those horrible zoom edits and occasional (and frankly unwelcome) detours into the wretched avid visuals that Tony Scott has made his new trademark. It’s a pisstake I’m sure, but its one of the over-indulgent distractions that prevents Fuzz from truly having a personality of its own.
At two hours the film is certainly too long. The riotous shoot out in a Somerfield (think John Woo lost in the supermarket) should really wind things up, but there’s a prolonged dénouement involving a model village that - while funny - has a slight air of desperation.
The celebrity cameos - although fun – occasionally place the film firmly in the kind of extended TV special aesthetic that hampered the League of Gentlemen movie. That said, Wright is streets ahead of those guys in film terms and Fuzz is a lot more inventive and amusing than the League flick. Plus, when everyone is having as much fun as they clearly are here, a little padding can be forgiven.
That padding does not extend to a new ‘size zero’ Pegg - who has clearly been taking tips form his new Hollywood pals. He's slimmed down and in pure method mode for the first 20 minutes which - aside form a few laughs - pass by relatively chuckle free. It’s a brave decision to make Angel a preening unlovable do-gooding tosser (particularly as Pegg is such a naturally likeable performer ) but it works quite well and sets in tone an amusing conflict between Angel and Sanford’s lazily cynical detectives - played the genius Paddy Considine (is there nothing this man can’t do?) and Rafe Spall.
Nick Frost is on form here. One of the few disappointments of SOTD for me was that his character never allowed Frost to mine the incredible pathos he showed as the tragically loveable gun loon Mike in Spaced. Well its all back with a vengeance here. Danny is both lackwit bumpkin and loveable buffoon. The chemistry between him and Pegg being now basically telepathic, Wright needs to do very little but simply roll the camera when these two are on screen.
Some of their comedy writing here is terrific. Wright and Pegg rarely - if ever - sacrifice character to go for the easy laugh. The comedy is heartfelt, contextualised and, in its own way, rather emotional. The best example being a repeated Point Break gag that I won’t spoil by revealing in detail. Trust me, while it gets a big laugh the first time around it simply brings the house down when replayed later on, in a different but absolutely correct context. There's texture amongst the goonery here, that’s for sure. And when there isn’t texture, there’s a fat man falling through a fence, which is equally hilarious. All in the timing.
After the screening Pegg talked of Frost as being the secret weapon of the movie. He’s not. The real secret weapon is Timothy Dalton - who delivers a performance so arch you half expect his moustache to begin whirling furiously every time he looms into shot. A hugely underrated screen presence, Dalton brings major charisma to a delightful role and absolutely dominates whenever he appears (which isn’t nearly enough) It’s great to see him on the big screen again.
Ultimately Hot Fuzz could use some trimming, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Wright fares away from his safety net (and his stifling editing style). And while it’s not a major leap on from SOTD, this is as much fun as you can have in the cinema right now. Go catch the Fuzz…