Move over, Grindhouse, 'cause, lo, here comes the fuzz! (We will say goodbye to flesh and blood.) When Hot Fuzz began by packing no less than five funny cameos of very likable people in its first five minutes, I figured I was in for another good time with the Shaun of the Dead crew. And happily, they didn't disappoint -- this action flick homage-parody by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost is as smart, witty, rousing, and enjoyable as its zombie-laden predecessor. Moreover, unlike Tarantino and Rodriguez's recent foray into film nostalgia (and, for that matter, Team America: World Police, also an action-parody), Hot Fuzz works at both levels -- it's both a clever send-up of action movie tropes and not a half-bad actioner itself (particularly in its last half-hour.) The proceedings here are all frightfully British, of course -- in fact, that's most of the joke. Hot Fuzz is Die Hard in a Wee Country Village, a bunch of quintessentially American Bruckheimerisms cross-bred with quintessentially droll English understatement. But if that wry sense of humor is your cup of tea (as it is mine), the result is probably the goofiest fun you'll have had at a movie theater since Borat.
This time around, Simon Pegg is Sergeant Nicholas Angel, the most accomplished and dedicated peace officer on the London police force. (uh, police department, that is -- the new protocols state you shouldn't say force. Sorry about that.) He's so accomplished, in fact, that he's making everyone else look bad, and thus his superiors ship him off to the remote country idyll of Sandford, which proudly wears the title of the safest village in England. 9/11 is a joke in this town, and it soon seems Angel will spend the remainder of his days busting underage drinkers, chasing wayward swans, and fielding dumb questions from his new partner (Nick Frost), a second-generation lousy cop with an inordinate love for Point Break and Bad Boys II. Of course, if you've ever read an Agatha Christie novel, watched an episode of Doctor Who, rented The Prisoner or The Wicker Man, or basically taken in any contemporary tale ever set in a remote English village this side of All Creatures Great and Small, you can guess that things may not be all that they seem. And sure enough, it soon becomes clear that there's a killer loose in this sleepy little haven, and that Sandford may need Angel's finely honed police skills after all... (Particularly given that the town elders include Bond, Belloq, Boss Tweed, Jimmy Price, and the Equalizer, among others, so there are more than a few possible prime suspects to go around.)
A lot of the fun of Hot Fuzz comes not only from its smart writing and satiric edge (some of which I can't discuss without giving away the game, sadly -- but you'll see what I mean) but also from its affectionate spoofing of American action tropes throughout. We have the two partnered cops, of course: the wide-eyed rookie learning the ropes and the grizzled veteran who can't leave the job at home. But Hot Fuzz also features the ubiquitous Tony Scott quick-edits, the not-very-oblique homoerotic male-bonding subtext, the Michael Bay circular pans, the bad detective mustaches, and, of course, the big guns and bigger explosions. (I don't remember a shot through the windshield of Pegg and Frost simultaneously screaming, as per the buddy-movie-standard, but I'm guessing it might have been in there too.) What separates Fuzz from the similarly knowing Planet Terror, a movie that was basically all inside-jokiness, is that this film never seems derisive toward its target, really. It lampoons the genre, sure, but it also delivers as a genre exercise. (As did Shaun, now that I think about it...hopefully Edgar Wright will bring a similar balance and panache to the superhero movie with his forthcoming take on Ant-Man.)[First appeared in Ghost in the Machine, 4/21/07.]