April 20, 2007

Movie Review: Hot Fuzz

Posted in Movies at 11:50 pm by Calico Jack

Too many comedies today go for the cheap and easy laughs instead of working hard to build up a joke with a much bigger payoff for the audience. Hot Fuzz, from the team that created the critically-acclaimed Shaun of the Dead, is essentially a movie-length version of a joke that spends its first two-thirds leading up to one gigantically hilarious third act. This isn’t a slight against the film at all, because Hot Fuzz has both a coherent plot (albeit ridiculous) and more laughs per minute than any film released in the past four or five years — and I’m including Borat.

Simon Pegg plays Sergeant Nicholas Angel, a highly skilled Metropolitan Police officer who hasn’t yet met a record he can’t break, much to the underachieving embarrassment of his coworkers and superiors. In order to save the Force’s reputation, Angel is transferred to the sleepy countryside village of Sandford, where escaping swans and neighboring farmers fighting over hedges are the most he has to worry about. Due to the lack of crime in Sandford the small police force has whittled away its skills and now acts as a rather incompetent unit, most shown in Angel’s new partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), son of the Sandford police chief and action movie buff who must bring treats for the department every time he arrives at the police station drunk. Angel and Butterman’s relationship starts off rather prickly, but when a number of townspeople fall prey to a series of gruesome accidents, Angel enlists Butterman’s help to determine if these accidents could really be the work of a serial killer.

That’s the plot in a nutshell — anything more would ruin too much of the story. Hot Fuzz is neither a buddy cop movie nor a satire of one; instead, it falls somewhere in between. Shaun of the Dead spoofed zombie flicks and British pub culture while throwing in serious drama, but Hot Fuzz takes more of a lighthearted tone throughout while never degenerating into parody. What it does do, however, is poke fun at all of the excesses so often seen in action dramas, from the over-the-top shootouts to the pretentious speeches given by the criminal masterminds after they have trapped the hero in an impossible situation. Every scene in Hot Fuzz pays hilarious homage to some action movie cliché, yet ironically enough, the plot is far better than the movies it pays tribute to.

However strong the story may be, what really holds Hot Fuzz together it its sense of humor. Every single scene induces at least a grin, if not an outright laugh. Director Edgar Wright has a perfect sense of comedic timing: punchlines come at exactly the right moment, and few jokes ever seem forced or drawn out. Even Borat, which was the funniest movie of 2006, ran too long in some of its sketches; Hot Fuzz does no such thing. However, there are no rolling-on-the-floor scenes, just a consistently high level of humor throughout. The one potential flaw that Hot Fuzz has is that the first hour or so of the film is pretty much devoid of the “action” part of “action comedy.” Because Hot Fuzz has a plot, it takes the time to set everything up properly…but when it does kick into high gear, the results are unbelievable.

Hot Fuzz is the early lead for funniest film of 2007, and it may well end up on my top-10 list for the year. There are so many asides and subtle jokes that it would well reward a repeat viewing. Few movies are able to keep their audience laughing as much as this one, and I hope that American audiences embrace Hot Fuzz. British humor can be a tough sell on this side of the pond, but Hot Fuzz‘s humor is broad enough that us Yanks will get the vast majority of jokes — which makes it ten times funnier than most American comedies.


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