Hot Fuzz Review
I wish I could be more enthusiastic about Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's comedies. I've got a lot of time for the pair. I share their love for ultraviolent action blockbusters and George A Romero zombie flicks. I laugh at a lot of the same things they do. And I think their regular co-star and discovery, Nick Frost is one of the funniest people on the big screen. So why is it I end up just liking their films instead of loving them?
Their concepts are always so good! Hot Fuzz's is a knockout. Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is an over-achieving London supercop who's promoted to sergeant and packed off to a small village in the West Country because, as his superiors explain to him, he makes the rest of the force look bad. This is a fantastic opening scene, with some nice cameos. The same day, Angel's girlfriend dumps him because she says he's married to his job.
Unsurprisingly, police work in the picturesque town of Sandford is very different from police work in London. Shoplifting and underage drinking are about as exciting as it gets. Sergeant Angel quickly grows bored with his job and, on top of that, he has to endure the hero-worship of PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the superintendent's daft, action-movie-obsessed son. Then Angel notices something strange about his new town. While Sandford hasn't had a murder in decades, its fatal accident rate is way above the average. And many of the people who are having these accidents are connected to the town's sneering supermarket tycoon, Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton).
For a while - a very long while - Hot Fuzz is wonderful. The cast is sublime. Simon Pegg has written a perfect comic role for himself - a tough urban copper suffering manfully as he's forced to go looking for missing swans. Nick Frost is absolutely hysterical as the clueless constable who thinks big city police work is like Point Break and who pesters Pegg with questions like, "Have you ever fired a gun in the air while going, 'Aaaagggghhhhh!'".
The two men have a great comic rapport, as they did in Shaun Of The Dead, and they're surrounded by a supporting cast full of ace British actors and comedians. Most of them have one joke apiece (like Olivia Colman as the station bike) but they're good jokes. Despite his occasionally annoying editing quirks, director Edgar Wright manages to create the most precious thing a comedy film can have: a fun atmosphere. The actors and the situations are so enjoyable to watch, the audience laughs even at the lamer jokes.
The first hour whizzes by. The trouble is the film goes on for two, a very excessive running time for a light comedy. Partly this is down to self-indulgence. Someone should tell Wright that in the age of DVD deleted scenes, he doesn't have to feel so reluctant to trim things. The strongest material is in the first half. Come the midway point, Hot Fuzz starts getting bogged down in plot. The murder investigation is needlessly complicated, especially since it leads nowhere.
Where the film goes next will either delight you or leave you cold. Towards the end, Hot Fuzz veers off on a strange tangent, turning from a witty, contemporary English comedy into a wild parody of the kind of Hollywood action films PC Butterman watches over and over on DVD. Guns fire, cars chase, buildings explode, villains die in bloody ways, helicopters buzz overhead in slow motion.
I'm afraid I was left cold. The idea of setting Michael Bay-style action in a quaint English village, with quaint English villagers as the villains is amusing for a moment - it makes you smile - but it can't carry the entire last act of the film. The climax goes on and on and on, till it's beaten the idea completely to death. The films being parodied are mostly tongue-in-cheek to begin with so there's not much humour to be found in sending them up, as anyone who's seen National Lampoon's Loaded Weapon 1 can confirm. Nick Frost's fanboy love for these films is much funnier than the parody itself.
I think my biggest problem with Hot Fuzz, as with Shaun Of The Dead, is that the straight genre stuff and the humour don't mix terribly well, not like they do in Grosse Pointe Blank to give an example of a perfect action-comedy, or in An American Werewolf In London if we're talking comedy-horror. When Shaun Of The Dead turned into a semi-serious zombie film, it didn't work for me. When Hot Fuzz tries to be Bad Boys III, same thing.
On balance, I liked this film. It has a great cast, it's fun for a very long time and it has a lot of laughs - big laughs. I'm recommending it, certainly to anyone who enjoyed Shaun. However, I can't join the chorus of reviewers hailing Pegg and Wright as geniuses and their films as great comedies. They're good and they're getting better but, for me, they're not quite there yet.