I’d forgotten that parody could be this sharp, this smart. Too many movie parodies are like Scary Movie, Not Another Teen Movie, and their ilk: cheap, junky, kitchen-sink productions that throw countless dumb gags and are lucky to hit their target one out of ten times. Hot Fuzz is much more targeted and infinitely funnier. A witty, well-observed, affectionate rib on action movies, it expertly cracks wise on the characters, the situations, and even the camerawork of the genre, and the cumulative effect of all those perfect details makes Hot Fuzz a riot.
Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a highly decorated straight-arrow London street cop whose superiors transfer him to a sleepy English village after Angel makes them look bad by comparison one too many times. Angel is unhappy with his new beat, but he makes the best of it, pursuing policework there with his usual vigor and acumen. His partner, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), worships the ground he walks on, but his other colleagues resent him, particularly after he insists that a series of deadly “accidents” require serious investigation.
That investigation (which Angel himself pursues after the local detectives dismiss the matter) leads to a solution far more wide-reaching—and far goofier—than I would have suspected. The big reveal alone would make Hot Fuzz an enjoyable diversion, but it’s the journey there that makes it a small masterpiece of film satire. The supporting cast—particularly the sweet-faced Jim Broadbent as the town-proud police captain and the hilariously oily Timothy Dalton as a shady small-businessman—is wickedly funny, and Edgar Wright’s direction is note-perfect. One particular scene-closing shot is so hysterically played and timed that Sean and I backed up the DVD several times to watch it again and again. By the time we moved on, we were practically crying with laughter.
The filmmakers behind Hot Fuzz (lead actor Pegg and director Wright also wrote the screenplay) are also responsible for the minor cult classic Shaun of the Dead, and the earlier film, a surprisingly moving riff on zombie movies, is, perhaps, more ambitious and heartfelt than Hot Fuzz. It aims higher, and when it succeeds, it’s more impressive. But for me personally, the shaggy, rambling storyline of Shaun grows a bit tiresome, and the cheat of an ending annoys me no end. I’d be the first to admit that Fuzz isn’t as grand-minded as Shaun (which is as grand-minded as a zombie parody can be), but I must say I prefer the smooth craftsmanship of Fuzz to the indie sprawl of Shaun.
Hot Fuzz might not be profound, but it has everything a summer movie should: big explosions, side-splitting one-liners, wacky characters, genuine surprises, a brisk pace, and an edge of whimsy to keep everything light. It’s a credit to its genre—and a better action movie than most action movies—and it made me laugh like I haven’t in months And frankly, I needed that.