Sunday, March 25, 2007

Hot Fuzz

If you've never heard of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, chances are you're not a twenty-to-thirty something geek. The pair - along with writer/director Edgar Frost - are the current wunderkids of cult British comedy. Their style of playing straight for the biggest laughs began with the TV sketch show Big Train (which this reviewer is still trying to track down on DVD), continued with the freaky-geeky sitcom Spaced, and reached international fame with rom-com-zom Shaun of the Dead, a loving parody of zombie films, told from the point of view of your average, ordinary computer nerd just trying to get to the safety of his local pub.

The trio's follow up is Hot Fuzz, another loving tribute, this time to small-town English murder-mysteries (ala Agatha Christie), but more particularly to Hollywood cop buddy films, such as Point Break and Bad Boys (heavily and hysterically referenced in the film). Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a brilliant and highly-trained young police constable sent packing from London because his skills are showing up the rest of the squad. All of a sudden he finds himself a sergeant in the middle of Sandford, the kind of quiet little village favoured by Tidy Town judges worldwide. In fact, Sandford is facing its annual Tidy Town evaluation when weird and gruesome accidents begin happening. It's up to Angel - and his new partner Danny Butterman (Frost) - to work out whether the accidents are just that - unlucky accidents - or something far more suspicious.

The premise of something sinister lurking behind the quaint village facade is hardly new, but it's the Shaun of the Dead formula of mixing absurdity with straight delivery, topped with a healthy measure of OTT violence that brings life and great laughs to the concept. Pegg and Frost are decent actors too, and they're buoyed by a who's who of British character actors - cameos by Bill Nighy and Steve Coogan, a wonderfully sad-eyed Jim Broadbent as the local police chief who wants a quiet life, and Timothy Dalton as a fantastically smarmy local businessman who always seems to be a step ahead of the police.

Central to the film is the relationship between the honest, upright superstar Angel, and the tubby, Cornetto-chomping Danny, who yearns for big-city action but experiences it only through his enormous collection of crap Hollywood blockbusters. Danny is the son of Broadbent's police chief Frank Butterman, so his story arc becomes more interesting as he learns some painful truths about the town, and is forced to make the required "tough choice".

The film is quite horrendously violent, with the "accidental" deaths coming about in increasingly brutal ways. After what could be legitimately called a slow beginning, the film's final 45 minutes is an orgy of violence in the best cinematic tradition. But for those on the squeamish side, it always remains video-game violence - realistic, but not real. There's plenty of blood, but the victims always get up again. It's a parody after all, and the constant references to famous action film sequences and jokes about the genre keep you laughing even when cringing. My only complaint would be the film's ending does suffer from a spot of the Peter Jacksons - in that it seems to have several endings. But again, they're parodying the genre, so it's hard to tell if that's a fault in the editing room or was planned all along.

Pegg, Frost and Wright say they try to make films that they themselves would want to watch. It's a simple theory, but it's amazing how often it seems to be forgotten in Hollywood. Let's hope Britain realises what geniuses they have in the trio, and prevent them being lured away by the bright lights of Tinseltown. It won't be to everyone's taste, but if you're a comedy fan, Hot Fuzz is a joy.

Note! Cate Blanchett actually has an uncredited cameo role in Hot Fuzz, which just proves how similar Australian and British comic sensibilities are. See if you can spot her!

1 comment:

Leanna said...

You write very well.