(This Blog entry originally appeared Wednesday, February 21, 2007 on the ChezShockedelica Blog on Myspace.)
OK, I'm a little late with this one.... but maybe not. Since the movie doesn't drop in the US until the last of April, I'm actually a bit early I guess.
I'm talking about the new Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright, Nick Frost movie, "HOT FUZZ", which opened a few weeks ago in the UK. I'll give you the short version of my thoughts first: It's fantastic, but not without flaws.
I think the problem most folks will have coming in to watch this movie will be seeing past "Shaun of the Dead". Yes, yes, yes, "Shaun of the Dead" is a modern classic. It's a nearly universally loved zombie movie. To top that would be asking a bit much. I don't know if they topped it, or if they were even trying to, but they did make a nice match. "Shaun of the Dead" and "Hot Fuzz" would make an enormously entertaining double bill.
The plot, in short, is as follows: Nicholas Angel is the best cop in London. His arrest record is 400% above anyone else in the police service. He's so good, he's made everyone else look really bad, so the higher ups ship him off to a remote village where NOTHING happens. Of course, when he arrives, he immedately begins to realize somthing's amiss. I mean, even the smallest town must have more crime than underage drinking, graffitti and the occasional shoplifter, right?
The movie then unfolds, at different turns, as a murder mystery, a supremely bloody body count slasher flick (One kill in particular actually made me gasp audibly!), 1970's Clint Eastwood movies ("Dirty Harry" AND "High Plains Drifter"!!!), Sam Peckinpah blood ballets and Michael Bay Buddy Cop movies. There's even some "Wicker Man" in there (the original, of course)! 99% of the time, "Hot Fuzz" hits it's make with deadly precision. Thankfully there wasn't any cribbing from the Die Hard movies. This film was too smart to do that. It would have been painfully out of place.
Simon Pegg is astonishingly good as Nicholas Angel. He's not playing his Tim Bisley from Spaced character again, like he basically did in "Shaun of the Dead". He's actually playing a humorless, hardened cop; a cop whose life is so bland that he can't stop working, even when he's off duty. His character is a bit of the anti Shaun. Whereas Shaun never noticed the aopocalypse unfolding around him, Nicholas is all too aware, but can't get anyone to believe in him. Nick Frost plays Danny Butterman, a police officer of the small town that's only there because he's the son of the chief of police. Frost is also wonderful in his role as a sort of slow and soft, but endearing guy who endlessly watches crime movies like "Point Break" and "Bad Boys 2" in leiu of any real action in his line of work. Even if you didn't know the actor's backgrounds (they're best friends in real life), you wouldn't be able to deny Pegg and Frost's chemistry. They play off of each other so effortlessly, it's a bit mindboggling. There's also a bit of platonic homoeroticism (that you'd find in any Michael Bay actioner) that is played up wonderfully throughout the movie.
There are also roles by Timothy Dalton, Edward Woodward, Bill Bailey (in a small, but priceless, role), Julia Deacon (Spaced's Marsha) and Bill Nighy who all serve as foils to Angel at one time or another.
The first half hour felt kinda slow with the laughs seeming a bit forced (in retrospect, I believe that's my fault, and not the filmmaker's; I confess to have been a bit anxious to get things rolling), but once it hit the half hour mark, the film suddenly hits turbo speed and never stops until the end. The quickness of it all may be one of it's biggest faults, however. The film is shot in the same quick cut style of "Shaun of the Dead" from time to time and it may be a bit overused here. I was getting tired of seeing a great scene unfold, just to be interrupted be QUICK CUT QUICK CUT QUICK CUT. It was bordering on irritating. Also the film was a but long (2 full hours!!!) and the finale boasts multipule endings, one or two that might ave been better off cut. Still, though, it's not like they were doing anything that your average Michael Bay movie wouldn't do, and I'm absolutely positive that was the point: A movie with a slow buildup and an ending that doesn't seem to know when to end. Gee, how many movies like THAT can we name?
In that respect, the team of Pegg-Wright-Frost are absolute geniuses. Not only do they know their films, they know how to craft one without pandering and pointing to their references with big yellow arrows that say "LOOK! A REFERENCE!" in big neon letters. "Hot Fuzz", like "Shaun of the Dead" isn't a spoof of the genre it's contributing to, it's a fine example of said genre that just happens to be extremely funny.
One last gush. The soundtrack is even better than "Shaun of the Dead"! I can wait to get my hands on a copy.