Hot Fuzz (2007) / Comedy-Action
MPAA Rated: R for violent content including graphic images, and language
Running Time: 121 min.
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Stuart Wilson, Paddy Considine, Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan, Martin Freeman
Director: Edgar Wright
Screenplay: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Review published February 24, 2007
A distinctly British rural murder mystery flick if injected with a Hollywood action extravaganza mentality, this is one semi-parody of bad thrillers that takes its main joke too far. Hot Fuzz might meet the entertainment quotient for viewers already predisposed to enjoy the big budget schlock police thrillers it openly pays homage to, but that doesn't mean it succeeds much more than its inspirations. Just as they did with Shaun of the Dead, the makers of Hot Fuzz seek to play in the sandbox made by other guilty pleasure favorites, but this time, the gags don't crack as sharp, the action isn't as assured, and the climax of the film goes on entirely too long.
SImon Pegg (Mission Impossible III, Shaun of the Dead) stars as the strict by-the-book police sergeant named Nicholas Angel, who is dispatched to a rural town from his big city environs when he becomes "too good' for his current precinct, making the rest of the cops look bad by comparison. No good deed goes unpunished, as they say, and Angel is forced to go to what is supposed to be the safest town in the country, Stanford in Gloucestershire, one that has one awards for its idyllic small town lifestyle. He immediately butts heads with the powers that be by busting underage drinkers, petty loiterers, and even the son of the top cop (Frost, Kinky Boots), who later becomes his partner in fighting crime. Then accidents begin to happen around the small town, killing off several residents in grisly ways, and Angel begins to suspect that there is a serial killer in this "safe" town that just might end up being the biggest bust of his career.
Hot Fuzz benefits by having a very nice comedic cast of character actors, with Simon Pegg in fine form in both the comedy and action department. Good light roles for Timothy Dalton (Flash Gordon), Jim Broadbent (Art School Confidential), Bill Nighy (Notes on a Scandal) and Steve Coogan (Night at the Museum) bolster the smaller scenes into something worthwhile. It never ascends into the realm of cinematic greatness, but for the first two thirds of the film, the tone is amiable, clever, and moderately engaging, Then the cowled figure appears, killing off, in addition to several prominent characters, the movie itself. "Shit just got real....[shitty]".
Whatever momentum Hot Fuzz accrues through the cheeky interaction between super-cop and the small town community fades out in a hurry once the goods are given up regarding the background of what's behind the deaths that occur right at Angel's feet. Although the set up leans toward a slasher movie, the rest of the film isn't much more than a regurgitation of the style of action found in Bad Boys II and Point Break. Perhaps if they didn't pay homage to two films I absolutely detest with every fiber of my being, or if they at least made obvious fun out of this type of filmmaking, perhaps it wouldn't have chipped away my tolerance in seeing re-enactments of scenes that weren't very clever or effective the first time. It also would have helped if this blend of reference and reverence could have come and gone once whatever comedic value had been achieved, but no, it goes on for a good twenty minutes longer, without much of the clever humor, snarky entertainment, or consistency of tone between action and comedy that marked the earlier scenes.
I'm going to venture to say that I'm probably going to be in the minority when it comes to thinking Hot Fuzz is mostly scattershot tedium. I need no further evidence than to look at how many people are entertained utter garbage like Point Break and Bad Boys II. Just as I fail to see what's so exciting about explosive action taken to mind-numbing, snooze-inducing lengths in those films, I am at an equal loss as to their worth in this one, save to copy cat them for people who think just referring to a movie is sufficient enough to consider it satire.
At the very least, this film is light-years ahead of those in terms of entertainment value. Yet, it is also just as disposable, never really settling into a defined comedic groove. There really is little justification for the whopping 121 minutes of run time, especially when there is such a tendency to drag on scenes to the point of overkill. I've wanted to pull the plug that sustains the dumb Hollywood action vehicle for most of my lifetime; seeing such films replicated isn't funny to me -- it's just tearing open old wounds. I would have enjoyed a pure send-up, but as the action unfolds, one wonders if Pegg and Wright start to enjoy recreating their version of the clichéd Hollywood action flick, to the point where they decide to ditch satire in favor of straight-faced homage.
Like the big joke in Adaptation, which expends too much energy in mocking bad thrillers by replicating just how dumb they are for what seems like an eternity, the makers of Hot Fuzz sink what could have been a pleasant, if only sporadically humorous, homage into the abyss of monotony through extended action sequences that recreate (rather than skewer) what's wrong with brain-dead, high-octane American cop thrillers all too well.
©2007 Vince Leo