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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Hot Fuzz (review)

Blue Steal

Just like Shaun of the Dead

Wait, you’ve seen 2004’s Shaun of the Dead, haven’t you? Could be you didn’t: the British film never got a wide release here in the United States. So drop everything you’ve got on tap for today, go rent a copy (or buy one: trust me), and discover the smartest, grossest, tenderest, most outrageously funny zombie romantic comedy ever made. And then watch it again — trust me, you’ll want to.
Now you’re ready for Hot Fuzz, from the wildly witty Shaun guys: writer-star Simon Pegg and writer-director Edgar Wright. There was a palpable sense with Shaun that Pegg and Wright had, in their first feature film (they’d previously worked on several TV series together), instantly established a signature style, and Fuzz confirms that. It’s its own unique creature — a sendup of buddy cop movies, with no supernatural elements whatsoever — but it’s just as visually lively, just as crammed full of clever and literate wordplay, just as screamingly hilarious as Shaun.

Where it’s most vitally the same as Shaun is in its deep love of movies. Oh, Fuzz is all about taking down Hollywood action-movie excess and affectionately tweaking the clichés of the genre, but it does that from a place of understanding and fannish worship. Wright and Pegg get it exactly right: they know that there’s something weirdly schizophrenic in the love/hate relationship serious movie lovers have with the absurd extremes Hollywood can go to, and Fuzz — way more so than Shaun — springs from that half-protective, half-disdainful feeling only truly demented fans know: We’re allowed to make fun of this stuff, because we love it so much, but we’ll defend it if anyone else dares to say a negative word about it.

And so we have highly decorated London police officer Nicholas Angel, who’s so good at what he does that he’s making his colleagues look bad. (Pegg as Nicholas finds a completely different demeanor for his supercop; Nicholas is sleek and confident and almost unrecognizably unlike the schlubby slacker his Shaun was.) So his bosses — one of which is played by the effortlessly funny Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest) — ship him off to Sandford, a small, quiet village where high crimes consist of underage drinking and loitering in the town square. Oh, and once in a while, a swan will escape its confines, and its recapture will require police intervention.

Nicholas is bored out of his mind, of course, and finds himself lumbered with a partner, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, also from Shaun), whose police instincts have been formed by Michael Bay movies. Fuzz explicitly references flicks like Bad Boys II and Point Break — and later, when Pegg and Wright ratchet up the satire, there are sly nods to Terminator 2 and Robocop and a dozen other classic action movies, cop movies, and buddy movies — but it doesn’t ape them. Fuzz is a wonderfully original Frankenstein monster that hangs together beautifully — it would be astonishing if we hadn’t already witnessed this kind of miracle in Shaun. It’s not merely that Fuzz achieves a totally different kind of rhythm from Hollywood films, which makes it feel fresh — this is very British, and has not been Americanized in the least — but that it also manages to be so many kinds of clever. This is a cosy Miss Marple mystery, with townsfolk suddenly dying in mysterious ways that are none so genteel as in a battered old paperback novel and yet somehow still captures that feeling in the lack of concern the locals seem to have; accidents happen, don’t you know, and there’s really no need to involve the police. This is a cunning commentary on the surveilliance society that had taken over Britain: the neighborhood watch keeps a weather eye on hoodie-wearing hooligans, and a lot more, in Sandford. This is a sweetly effective portrait of male friendship, as Nicholas and Danny become, of course, closer than either of them could have imagined when they first met.

As American comedies almost entirely fail to do, though not for lack of trying, Fuzz ends up as Shaun did: a surprising mix of outrageous humor and genuine sentiment in which neither aspect fights with the other but instead complements it. The absurdity of the cartoon emotion of a Michael Bay flick — which Danny suggests Nicholas watch in an attempt to loosen up a bit — is completely transformed, by the end of Fuzz, into a moment that is as comical as it is touching. It’s a smack at Hollywood, and a hug, as if to say, Look, you big dumb lugs, we love ya, but this is how you do it right.

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MPAA: rated R for violent content including some graphic images, and language

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
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  • Kate

    Also, do yourself a BIG favor and if you have BBC America, try to catch “Spaced,” which was co-written by and stars Simon Pegg and his hilarious co-writer & co-star Jessica Stevenson, and also stars Nick Frost. It’s only two short seasons and a post-show special, which I don’t believe has aired here yet.

    The premise is simple: Pegg & Stevenson pose as a couple in order to get an affordable apartment, and the show follows them, their friends, landlady, and neighbors in their semi-slacker existence. But the show is original, visually creative, surprisingly emotionally captivating, and ten kinds of funny. I’m waiting desperately for this to come out on DVD in the States.

  • Rykker

    I am dying to see this film; being a big-time Shaun of the Dead fan. Thanks for the review.

    On a side note, I see a K&N banner to the left — does your coolness have no bounds?

  • MaryAnn

    I don’t have BBC America, unfortunately. My cable company sucks.

    What is a “K&N banner,” Rykker? Perhaps you’re talking about the dynamic ad between the blogads and the Amazon ad? Because those change every time the page loads, and I don’t see anything that could be “K&N”…

    But no, generally, my coolness knows no bounds.

  • Drave

    Just got back from Hot Fuzz. I can’t even remember the last time I have laughed so hard in a theater. I think it’s my favorite flick this year so far, and there have been some stupendous movies already!

  • Rykker

    Sorry for the confusion, MaryAnn. K&N is an auto parts company that specializes in high-performance air filters, oil filters, and forced-air intake systems. The ad I saw was in the dynamic ad rotation on Friday morning.

    Saw Hot Fuzz yesterday; awesome flick.

  • Ide Cyan

    I went to see Hot Fuzz last night. Adored it, laughed a ton. It reminded me of Bon Cop, Bad Cop, but with the action and the humour better blended together, and without the gratuitous heterosexuality.

  • I have to second the “never laughed so hard in a theater” comment. However, to my dismay, I was the only person in my entire theater who cracked up when Danny, with a completely straight face, said “Forget it, Nick. It’s Sanford.”

    I about peed my pants I laughed so hard. Most everyone else just looked at me funny.

  • lunarangel01

    I went on a Saturday night to see it, and I’m glad I did because it was a packed theater. Normally I go to movies on Sunday night because the introvert in me doesn’t want to be bothered with a lot of people. However, I remembered that when I saw Shaun of the Dead it was great to be in a theater with a bunch of people who appreciated it as much as I did, so that’s why I chose to see it on Saturday night.

    It was hilarious! I loved the swan.

  • Danielle

    Great movie, and even better it’s an instantly quotable one (“Have you ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air?”, “By the power of Greyskull!”). Did you catch the cameos by Peter Jackson and Cate Blanchett? Awesome.

  • rocio

    Me gusta mucho

  • Max

    Nice movie =)

  • very good :)

  • Great movie! I also download free online movies at http://www.downloadmoviesfree.net, and enjoy watching them with my family and friends.

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