Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz screened this past Friday, August 6th at Toronto Underground Cinema as part of Edgar Wright's The Wright Stuff. Don't forget to check out Wright's latest film, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, in theatres this Friday August 13th.

Hot Fuzz is a brilliant film and quite possibly the best buddy cop film ever conceived. I know this blog comes hot on the heels of me saying that Shaun of the Dead is a classic, but if you look back at that blog, you should note that I didn't call it the best zombie film (that would be the original Dawn of the Dead) or the best romantic comedy of all time. Hot Fuzz unseated Beverly Hills Cop as the best buddy cop film of all time in my eyes simply because Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg do the exact same thing here that they did in Shaun of the Dead: they always put the characters first.

Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Pegg) with the Metropolitan Police Department is being reassigned to the countryside village of Sandford in the North country. He is being reassigned not because of shell shock or because he screwed up, but because he is so devoted to and so good at his job that he is making the rest of the force look bad in comparison.

Angel arrives in Sandford where he is immediately a fish out of water, much like Beverly Hills Cop. His superior, Frank (Jim Broadbent), is far too nice to be the chief of police and Angel is partnered with Frank's son Danny (Nick Frost, who steals the show even more here than in Shaun), who is desperate to live the life of a "real" police officer. Danny grills Nicholas every chance he gets about hanging from helicopters to firing your gun in the air for no reason other than dramatic effect.

Nicholas, however, can't quite get into the rhythms of Sandford, especially when most of the town's problems are things that Angel would himself overlook as being too petty to really arrest someone for (kids loitering, a missing swan, "crusty jugglers"). What does capture Angel's attention, however, is the fact that over the years a lot of residents have had very unfortunate accidents befall them that don't really seem like accidents at all. Unfortunately, Frank, Danny, and the rest of the police force in Sandford, which is once again in the running for the best village award, are willing to see them as anything other than a series of unfortunate incidents. Needless to say, Nicholas will turn out to be right about foul play being afoot, and it is up to him and Danny (after much coaxing and referencing numerous action films Danny loves) to restore order to this quiet community.

Part of the joy of watching Hot Fuzz, is letting the twists of the story unfold. There is quite obviously a red herring character in the form of Timothy Dalton's supermarket owner Skinner, but to see where the story leads makes it a better movie in my eyes than Shaun was. Hot Fuzz is really one of the best piss takes on suburban panic in recent years. Everyone in Sandford seems ignorant, avoiding the truth, or flat out blood thirsty and evil about how much they want their town to appear perfect in everyone's eyes. By the end of the film, the real problem is revealed and the viewer can't help but wonder if their diabolical plot is even worth it. Without getting into too much detail, think about if the killer's motivations make any economic sense in any way when you are don watching the film.

Wright has pretty much mastered the art of the whip pan at this point in his career, and despite a running time just barely north of two hours, he keeps the action moving at a brisk pace. Pegg is clearly having a blast firing off guns and generally acting like a supercop. But it is Frost, who shines the brightest in Hot Fuzz. Danny is a bit of an idiot, but he is actually quite lovable once you get to know him, and the movie's detailing of Danny's relationship to both Nicholas and his father, is quite touching. Danny is someone who has been sheltered his entire life, but he yearns for something more. But how can you yearn for something that is intangible, especially when all you know of the outside world seems to come from Hollywood action blockbusters.

To call Hot Fuzz a British homage to the films of the likes of Michael Bay and Katherine Bigelow, is to oversimplify matters and to do the source material a great disservice. Hot Fuzz is a smarter film than a lot of people give it credit for being, and definitely holds up over numerous viewings.

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