Sunday, August 25, 2013

Hot Fuzz

Edgar Wright may be familiar to me because of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but his most well-known contribution to film is the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, which is comprised of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz (this movie) and The World’s End. In preparation for the last one, we saw the first one, but then after seeing The World’s End we decided to see Hot Fuzz. What’s interesting about this trilogy is that they aren’t narratively linked, but share some common themes, feature Simon Pegg and Nick Frost and are written by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright (the latter of whom is also the Director). While Shaun of the Dead, released in 2004, is more of a romantic comedy with zombies, Hot Fuzz, released in 2007, is a parody of and homage to American buddy cop movies, but set in a rural English town. While an interesting follow-up to Shaun of the Dead, both in concept and execution, I didn’t find it to be as funny.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the single best officer in the London Metropolitan Police, with an arrest record that is 400% higher than everyone else and is the main reason that crime is so low. However, it seems that he is too good at his job, since he is transferred to Sandford, Gloucestershire for making the other officers look bad. Sandford is a very quiet town, having won the Best Village in Britain award for a few years straight, and is known for having zero crime, but a high number of accidents. Nicholas has a hard time fitting in, mainly because his methods clash with the laid-back officers in the station and he’s also paired with Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), who desperately wishes that being an officer was more like in the movies (a la Bad Boys II and Point Break). However, a series of grisly incidents occur, causing Nicholas to suspect foul play within Sandford. One problem though: no one believes him.

Hot Fuzz, like Shaun of the Dead, is very good at pulling off its concept. The sinister plot running through Sandford is introduced suddenly, but is interwoven throughout in a way that makes sense and has every angle of it addressed (mostly by Nicholas). Where someone sees, and accepts it as, an accident, Nicholas is able to piece everything together and manages to do a good job of it. The audience shares his frustration with trying to get anyone to see the murders as actual murders, but when he manages to finally figure it out, the twist of the true nature of the crimes, and their connection, is genuinely surprising due to how well-hidden it is from the viewers, with a questionable and ridiculous motivation on part of the killer befitting a comedy. It’s interesting how surprisingly complex and serious a movie like this can get, but it’s also good that it knows how best to play the elements for laughs.

Nicholas Angel (left) and Danny Butterman (right) after finding a disarmed mine.

Unlike Shaun of the Dead however, Hot Fuzz didn’t seem to be as funny. This doesn’t mean it’s devoid of comedy, as it’s able to exaggerate buddy cop tropes spectacularly and put a new spin on some gags re-used from the previous film, such as the ever-funny fence gag. What I mean is that there is less emphasis on the comedic elements as opposed to the more serious elements, but for how it all came together I still believe there was a great balance of the two. Perhaps there could have been more light humor sprinkled throughout, but I think that might have clashed with some of the moments meant to create nightmare fuel.

The action elements from the buddy cop angle are present, but have considerable emphasis within the final minutes of the film, which is basically one long action sequence. This sequence is also, as I have read, inspired by the ending of Bad Boys II, so it’ll be up to you to decide whether or not that is a good thing (I haven’t seen movies in the vein of Bad Boys II). In any case, the action is very creative and used the environment to its advantage, rather than just being a straight-up shootout. This I consider to be a good thing, as it shows how well the characters can think on their feet. Buddy cop fans will also find visual homages to films of that genre, which is a good bonus for those who can spot them (including one which is somewhat telegraphed). It’s also good to know that there was some research put into the script, including such things as the paperwork that’s actually involved with being an officer.

One thing which I can also commend is the acting. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost take on roles similar to the characters they played in Shaun of the Dead, but their synergy and ability to bounce off of each other has not diminished. Other returning cast, such as Bill Nighy and Martin Freeman, are still good as well, the latter of which actually receives a more expanded role as a minor character (in The World’s End, he becomes a supporting character). I also liked the subtlety in the acting, which lends to the feeling of a smart comedy wherein they aren’t heavy-handed about the humor (this is the reason why I am disinterested in most comedies nowadays based on the trailer alone).

This swan shows up more than once.

Having seen a number of Edgar Wright movies in a row now, I’ve noticed that he has a certain directorial style. There are certain gags that he seems to like re-using while still making them funny, such as the fence gag (this can also be due to Simon Pegg being one of the writers) and he also likes to zoom in during a montage. The latter has the advantage of being used for comedic timing, such as its use in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World where the montage stops so Scott can slowly tie his shoe. His collaborations with Simon Pegg, or at least this trilogy, also take place in a small town, have a pub involved in some way and also have some focus on either the girlfriend or mother of Simon Pegg’s character. While I do recognize some things between movies now, that doesn’t stop them from being good.

On a final note, since this is the middle part of the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy, the flavor featured in Hot Fuzz is the Classico flavor, which is colored blue and represents the police elements. Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End show the other flavors pretty quickly in an instance of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it, but there’s no need to worry about searching here because the flavor shows up much more often and there is more than one chance to catch it onscreen.

Like Shaun of the Dead and later The World’s End, Hot Fuzz is a great send-up of the genre of movies it wants to homage. The acting is still impressive, the comedy has excellent timing and the story get surprisingly complex while expertly balancing its core elements. Also like the other two movies however, Hot Fuzz has an ending that may not impress everyone, even more so when you see that it’s one long action sequence. Regardless, it is worth seeing Hot Fuzz at least once, if not more than once, especially if you are a fan of Edgar Wright or buddy cop movies. Please be sure to note however that it is rated R for a reason, even if it’s a good comedy from start to finish.

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