95%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (2 Votes)
90%

Hot Fuzz, the only non-American, non-patriotic film to be unanimously requested for viewing at my last Fourth of July party. Declared by every drunk, barbeque chicken-filled partygoer as an exception, because it’s just that entertaining. Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright team up once again for the spiritual successor to Shaun of the Dead, this time tackling the buddy cop genre in full force. (Police force. It’s a pun.)

Police Constable Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is a level 90 officer in the video game known as life. He is a no nonsense man of the law, who has excelled ridiculously throughout his career, in everything from riot control to speed chess.

We open on Angel in a meeting with the Chief Inspector, getting his reward for years of selfless service: a demotion. He is swiftly relocated to a rural village for the crime of “being great and making the rest of us look bad” – a sentiment from jealous plebeians we’ve all been forced to endure, I’m sure. Though combative of the decision, Nicholas dutifully leaves the rough and tumble city of London, carrying nothing more than a suitcase and a potted plant.

While Nicholas is introduced as an action-hero type whose skills are unmatched, he is immediately humanized through personal struggle. He’s treated badly by his superiors; leaves behind a nice job in a big city. He’s failing in love. His best friend is a Japanese Peace Lily. Yet instead of spending the next two hours following Nicholas’ journey to rediscover himself and what is truly important in life, we are treated to a man who remains strong. Nicholas never doubts his abilities, despite being pushed to the bottom. It’s a refreshing and uplifting take, the idea that sometimes bad things happen, but one needn’t rethink one’s entire life over a bump in the road. Nicholas brings the same skills and attitude that helped him take down hundreds of hardened criminals and utilizes them in the quiet village of Sandford, whose biggest problem is underage drinking and an eyesore living statue.

Being a big cop in a small city catches the attention of the local police chief’s son, Danny (Nick Frost), an officer whose picture of police service is drawn from American action flicks containing fiery car chases and cheesy dialogue. Though seemingly ignorant to the real, gritty world of police work, it’s not his fault. Danny’s biggest punishment from his father is buying the station ice cream after being arrested by Nicholas for drunk driving. He has no reference for what Nicholas’ job is truly like, only the backwards ways of Sandford and a bunch of Hollywood movies.

Danny begins as an incompetent tagalong to Nicholas (easily impressionable, repeating Nicholas’ opinions though he barely knows him). It becomes clear that Danny is in desperate need of a mentor: someone who is firm in his beliefs, who sets boundaries and rules – someone like Nicholas. This is a great buddy cop pairing because their relationship goes beyond opposite personalities played for comedic effect. Danny and Nicholas develop as characters through their relationship. Danny balances out Nicholas’ stern demeanor and teaches him to relax, even introducing his new partner to some of his favorite police films. Likewise, Nicholas gives Danny the knowledge and encouragement to become a better officer, something Sandford’s police force and Danny’s father are not providing.

As things progress, Nicholas becomes suspicious of various accidents occurring around town. Bizarre deaths are discounted (and joyfully laughed off) as accidents by the people, despite increasing in frequency. Thus begins Nicholas’ quest to discover the dark secrets of not-so-idyllic Sandford.
Even though Hot Fuzz crosses the line between homage and parody, it delightedly skips a lot of tropes. Nicholas does not have to reject the police force in order to take down the corruption within it. He wins, as he always has, by being true to his training and his oath as a man of the law. Neither must Nicholas and Danny endure a falling out in order to realize their importance to each other. There are no misunderstandings which are not timely resolved. It’s common sense in a world that has gone batty – needed to balance out the bizarre characters and events plaguing Sandford.

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The only thing marring this film for me is the second climax, the inclusion of which takes me out of the story. After the big showdown and resolution, in which Nicholas and Danny bag the circle of villains, Nicholas rejects his old life in London, and both vow to remain partners, we’re brought back to the police department for a well-deserved celebration. The party quickly becomes deadly when a forgotten suspect bursts through the door and wounds Danny, who jumps in the line of fire to save Nicholas. The tight little bow that was the ending is suddenly pulled apart, and we’re left with another tussle, Danny fighting for his life, and an insane explosion. (Thank you to Microsoft Word for repeatedly refusing to let me purposefully mistype insane as “insano.”)

I spent half the time wondering if Nicholas was having a nightmare, which is a good indicator the scene is out of place. It comes out of nowhere and is resolved and forgotten just as quickly. There’s no character development, and the story is not moved forward, because the story was already over the scene prior. It felt like a tacked on second ending that I wish would have melded more seamlessly with the rest of the film.

Despite the one disjunction between the endings, Hot Fuzz is still on top of presentation. The rapid fire camera shots of Nicholas clicking his pen and flipping his badge at the beginning of the film are later mirrored in gruesome ax murders and foot chases. Originally used as a humorous technique to make the mundane inexplicably exciting, it is just as successful when used nonsatirically. These kinds of choices are what make Hot Fuzz a step above the rest. Writing, directing, music, and acting all blend together beautifully to create an over-the-top action comedy that would have slowed down and suffered if one of these brilliant elements was missing.

Hot Fuzz, in general, feels more fully realized than Shaun of the Dead. There is a definite progression in storytelling and change in atmosphere from the time Nicholas shoos away kids at a bar to the time he is hunting down a ring of murderers. A long list of quirky characters, as well as unique changes in scenery, put Hot Fuzz’s action on a bigger, more intriguing, scale.

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