a critiQal film review Hot Fuzz (2007)

Plot: London cop Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is so good at his job, he makes everyone else look bad. As a result, his superiors send him to a little out-of-the-way town named Sandford, where he is partnered with the oafish Danny Butterman (Frost). With barely any crime in Sandford, Angel chafes at his new assignment - until a series of grisly accidents convinces Angel that Sandford is not what it appears.

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After seeing Edgar Wright’s hilarious take on zombie films with Shaun of the Dead (2004), starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, we couldn’t wait to see their take on action films with the recent Hot Fuzz. But, were these three destined for another success, or would Hot Fuzz prove that Shaun of the Dead (2004) was a fluke?

Simon Pegg’s characters seem to have grown up a bit. Whereas he portrayed a perpetual slacker in Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz has him portraying an A++++ cop – so good, in fact, that he makes his fellow officers look bad enough in comparison that they want him out of the department. And yet…Pegg’s two characters (Shaun and Angel) aren’t all that different. When the going gets tough, they both step up to the plate – the only difference really between the two characters is that in Hot Fuzz, Pegg’s Nicholas Angel has already stepped up to that plate, and just has to wait for the bad guys to catch up. With that feel of familiarity running through the character right from the start, the viewer is already a bit more tuned in…even if they are hoping for more of a Shaun of the Dead (2004) sequel than anything else.

The same familiarity can be said for Nick Frost’s characters in both films as well. In the first, he’s a slacker…in Hot Fuzz, he’s a bumbling policeman, kept around mainly because his dad is captain. In both cases, his character and Pegg’s character form a rather friendship (although that friendship is much more unlikely in Hot Fuzz than Shaun of the Dead (2004)), and relies on Pegg’s character to lead him to the promised land. In the first film, that meant wading through zombies; in this film, it’s to get to do the stuff he sees the cops in his favorite movies do. Still, Nick’s sidekick shtick hasn’t gotten old yet, and he still manages to provide enough chuckles the audience won’t mind him sticking around for another couple of films – but eventually it’s probably going to get a bit old.

Bill Nighy also makes a brief appearance in Hot Fuzz, but it’s much briefer than viewers may be expecting from the previews. Timothy Dalton, on the other hand, takes over for the zombies as the bad guy of this pic, and does a decent enough job proving himself unlikable to the viewers, especially with his greasy-looking hairstyle and snide remarks.

But, Hot Fuzz isn’t totally reliant on it’s bad guy to provide a great nemesis for the heroes as most action movies generally do. Instead, Hot Fuzz is more spoof than anything else, and manages to pull off a lot of sight gags and recognizable camera angles that the viewer should be laughing throughout the whole film. And yet, for the times where the viewer doesn’t catch the reference, their is a storyline (albeit incredibly far-fetched) that the viewer can easily follow along with as well.

With the influx of spoof films relying totally on the hilarity of the spoof (the Scary Movie series being a prime example of this), if a spoof is considered unfunny, the viewer has nothing to fall back on. In the case of normal spoof films, there isn’t really a solid plot to fall back on. Just like the sequences in the film, the plot is culled from numerous sources, and ends up feeling patchy and disjointed at best.

With both Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Hot Fuzz, however, there is a solid plot behind the spoofs, so missing a reference or having a spoof fall short isn’t as big of a deal. Sure, the audience may not laugh as much at that point, but neither will they lose interest in the story by it. In the case of Scary Movie and it’s ilk, enough unfunny spoofs early on in the film will cause viewers to give up on the film, since the spoofs are all those films have to offer.

Also, Hot Fuzz approaches spoofing films a lot differently than other recent spoof films. In those films, they went after obvious targets, spoofing the films the viewer was sure to recognize. In Hot Fuzz, however, they only present a couple of those (and those are reinforced with on-screen viewings of the original sequence before the scene is re-created in this film. Otherwise, the tag line “[They] have seen every action movie ever made” rings true, as not all of the spoofs are as easily recognized, and the viewer always gets the impression they didn’t recognize them all. If that’s not a built-in reason for repeated viewings, I don’t know what is.

Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost may not have hit the bulls-eye with their second film, Hot Fuzz, but it’s decent (if far-fetched) storyline give this spoof film a better chance of retaining viewers throughout the whole film – and like it’s predecessor Shaun of the Dead (2004) proves something about spoof films that seems to have been forgotten since Spaceballs (1987) made it’s mark: Spoof films can have a decent storyline behind them too – they aren’t all just cheap jokes.

With it’s reaffirmation that a spoof film can have a plot and still be funny, plus it’s familiar performances by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz is worth watching for any fan of action films that can recognize how over the top some of them get. Add in the built-in reason for repeated viewings, and it seems like this one would be a must add to any collection.

But, somehow the sum of it’s parts doesn’t add up to quite what most would expect. With all the things going for it, it mostly feels like a poor imitation of Shaun of the Dead (2004) more than it’s own film. Maybe it’s that familiarity the viewers have with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost’s characters – whatever the reason, you can’t help but compare it to Shaun of the Dead (2004) – and Hot Fuzz is found lacking. Gone is the raw energy and hilarious laughs of the first film – replaced by smaller laughs and more of a sense of blase in the character.

Still, worth a rental, and may be a keeper to those who haven’t seen Shaun of the Dead (2004).

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