Tuesday, May 01, 2007

They will survive being "Fuzz"alicious!


directed by Edgar Wright
starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Paddy Considine, others

Confession: I have not seen “Shaun of the Dead.” But I’ve heard great things about it—enough to spark my interest in the reunion of Messrs. Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost. From what I can tell, it’s a worthy follow-up. Whereas “Shaun” was reportedly a funny, lightweight, fundamentally affectionate send-up of zombie movies that also gave a good-natured nod to slacker and romantic comedies, “Hot Fuzz” is a funny, lightweight, fundamentally affectionate send-up of buddy cop movies and Michael Bay action flicks that gives an equally good-natured nod to Agatha Christie murder mysteries and twee comedies set in quaint British villages. (Oh yeah, and apparently also to “The Wicker Man,” though that may give away a bit too much of the plot...not that the plot is really the driving force behind “Hot Fuzz.”)

Second confession: I haven’t seen most of the cop movies Wright and Pegg are spoofing. I passed on both installments of “Bad Boys,” which are heavily quoted in “Hot Fuzz.” I believe I saw part of "Lethal Weapon 3" at a high school party but nodded off midway through, one of only two times I can remember falling asleep during a movie. I did catch a good chunk of “Point Break” on TV once, though I don’t remember thinking much of it other than to observe that Keanu Reeves has grown handsomer, if not exactly more dramatically expressive, with age. However, I’ve seen enough of the Bay-Bruckheimer school of bang-boom-cut filmmaking to appreciate the wit that infuses what is, at its root, a painstaking labor of love. In this respect, the movie calls to mind a certain high-profile Tarantino-Rodriguez project that so recently and spectacularly bombed. If “Hot Fuzz" thrives where "Grindhouse" languished, it's not so much because "Fuzz" is a better film, but rather because it's more easily sold as a comedy - and perhaps because its cultural vocabulary, apart from some jokes that may get lost in transit across the pond, is more familiar to people who didn’t grow up watching B movies in the 1970s.

Pegg stars as Nicholas Angel, a London supercop who’s so good at his job he makes his fellow officers (or "fuzz," as the Brits call them) look inept by comparison. As a consequence, he’s both promoted and shunted to the position of sergeant in tiny Sandford, a pastoral hamlet with the lowest crime rate in England. There he finds himself holed up in the local station with Danny Butterman (Frost), an amiable, roly-poly bumbler of a cop who happens to be the son of the inspector (Jim Broadbent), and a crew of dimwits who seem to spend most of their time eating sweets and cracking puerile, mildly off-color jokes. They have little use for the new sergeant’s zealous ways—except Danny, who cherishes fantasies of big-city policing derived entirely from his encyclopedic knowledge of the aforementioned buddy-cop movies.

Initially glum Nicholas has little to do at his new post other than bust underage drinkers, chase down an escaped swan, and allow the awestruck Danny to initiate him into the rituals of Hollywood cops. But when a series of gruesome deaths takes out several of Sandford’s most prominent citizens, he suspects foul play, even as everyone around him dismisses the incidents as unfortunate accidents. With Danny as his only ally, the avenging Angel proceeds to investigate, leading to a blow-out finale that manages to evoke not only half the DVDs in Danny’s collection but a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western.

The result is nothing more or less than inspired silliness. The yuks range from slapstick that would do the Three Stooges proud to surprisingly sophisticated throwaway references. (Keep an ear out for the “Chinatown” allusion.) Pegg and Frost make an appealing pair, and Timothy Dalton is a howl as the smarmy, slickly sinister proprietor of the local supermarket, who Nicholas suspects is behind the murders. The movie takes its time getting where it needs to go and overall could have used some tighter editing, yet it still outshines most specimens of action bombast for sheer entertainment value. Not many films could parody an entire genre and simultaneously school it in how such movies can and should be done. The brilliance of “Hot Fuzz” lies in its ability to do just that.



Post a Comment

<< Home