This is the second movie on my list of five (seven) movies to see instead of Scott Pilgrim that I’m reviewing. I feel like Scott Pilgrim‘s middling disappointment has left me talking far more about Tarantino than I normally would. Ask Mel for more on that. Y’see, normally, I’d divide my fanboy gushing time between two modern filmmakers: QT and Edgar Wright. Although, I’ll say here and it will go unstated for my reviews of Shaun of the Dead and whatever they do next that when I review an Edgar Wright movie with Simon Pegg in it, I’m really talking about a different beast altogether. When these two co-write a movie, direct and star in it (with friend Nick Frost in the lead supporting role)–well, so far, they’ve been works of cinematic brilliance. Good track record off of two movies.
In Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel–an ace cop recently promoted to Sergeant. In the country. Because he’s making everyone in London look bad. Ironically, it’s in superhero and cop movies where objectivism is given a fair chance at being seen as a sympathetic philosophy. And that’s the last we’ll speak of that. Nick Frost supports Pegg as Danny Butterman, a local bobbie who is a fat, bumbling mess who ironically aspires to be a police officer, despite the fact that he is one. The movie itself is a carefully constructed affair, a deliberate homage to the small-English-village mysteries of the Agatha Christie era. I suppose it isn’t a spoiler, as it was mentioned in the publicity for this movie, but it is also a carefully constructed, deliberate homage to the big, loud American action movie. Again, Wright and Pegg prove more than adept as cultural mash-up artists, delivering a wickedly funny film that functions equally well as farce, mystery and action.
In the village of Sandford, a string of curious accidents have left several citizens dead and Sgt. Angel is the only police officer who cares to investigate. The corpses are piling up all around him, yet the entire village has been so conditioned to their peaceful way of life that Angel faces ridicule at every turn for suggesting that there may be a killer on the loose. In the delightful way that only the Brits can manage, death and serial murder are funnier in this movie than they have any right to be. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it yet, but this movie is screamingly funny.
As with most spiritual sequels to first movies from a particular creative team, this movie is larger, longer, more mature. This movie features a large ensemble of spot-on small town characters, most of these roles populated either by comedians trying something dramatic or dramatists trying their hand at comedy. It’s to the credit of Wright and Pegg’s writing that this movie works so well as both a comedy and drama. There are running gags, an abundance of curses, characters who exist for comedic relief. Running gags culminate in meaningful exchanges, the cursing finds a way of going from conversational spice to legitimate emphasis, even pure gag characters get big emotional and confrontational moments in the last act.
It’s hard to review this movie, talking like I don’t know all of the trivia behind its production and release. I know how Pegg and Wright write movies, making me think it goes unsaid that their writing is crisp, clean and effective. Hot Fuzz is on my shortlist of nominees for Movies I Could Watch Until Judgment Day, and that’s just on account of its masterful deliberate pacing and fantastic dialogue. To say this movie is well-written is to say Inglourious Basterds is well-edited. This film showcases in many invisible ways just how important writing and a good script are to a final film. It’s tight in a loose way, scripted in a conversational way.
But enough about the first ninety minutes. I know why you’re watching this movie, you know why I’m watching it. And the truth is, out of a two hour runtime, the entire last half-hour is dedicated solely to action. In their previous feature, Shaun of the Dead, Wright and Pegg chose the deliberately disparate genres of zombie horror and romantic comedy to blend into one cohesive feature. While that movie chose to introduce the zombie elements one act at a time, transitioning to full horror only after playing around with the idea for the middle eight, Hot Fuzz relies on the audience to get through the rather corking good mystery with the promise of balls-to-the-wall action to come. While most of the movie chooses to ape Fincher in deconstructing its hero character, showing why he’s imperfect and how the situation never plays out as you’d expect it to in real life, the last half hour smacks itself in the face, realizes that it is a movie and rocks out like nobody’s business.
The action in this movie is more ballsy and cathartic than all the action in every Michael Bay movie combined. Its editing showcases what’s happening, instead of the speed of it all. Sure, there are lightning cuts at times, but no cut is too fast for you to not parse the image by the time it counts. It doesn’t sacrifice humour entirely for this act, instead using it as a point of connection to reality and allowing you to breathe between stunning shots of gratuitous violence.
All in all, Hot Fuzz is so good, I wonder whether to count Pegg and Wright as one creative team and thus judge them on the Tarantino scale or count Wright as a separate director and judge him more kindly. You see, on the Tarantino scale that only the brilliant can be judged by, this movie is a solid three and a half stars. Good, yes, but not as singular in focus or clarity as its predecessor. However, while I will indeed count Wright and Pegg as their own creative team, as necessary to each other as the Coen Brothers, I’ve decided to judge them on the scale of mere mortals. Honestly, that’s just so I can justify giving this film FOUR STARS