Although it sounds odd, Hot Fuzz is like watching a classic Agatha Christie novel stuffed into a semi-automatic weapon, and strapped to the side of some of the best comedic talent working today. While you'll see the words 'satire' and 'spoof' mixed in to the majority of reviews, make no mistake -- Hot Fuzz is in no way, shape or form the Scary Movie of buddy-cop action flicks. It is, however, an adrenaline-fueled, balls-to-the-wall cup of simmering tea, served up to resemble everything you love about those big-budgeted run-and-gun movies, but with enough British flavor to have this Yank itching for more.
If you're aware of writer-director Edgar Wright and his creative partner Simon Pegg, then the first question out of your mouth will probably be: Is Hot Fuzz better than Shaun of the Dead? The short answer is, no. But let me explain: Back in 2004, Wright and Pegg followed up a stint on the successful UK TV show Spaced with, hands down, one of the best horror-comedies of this generation, Shaun of the Dead. Though Shaun immediately put the boys on the map across the pond, it took awhile for the film to find a fanbase here in the States. The Brits -- with their devilish dry humor and subtle satire -- often have a hard time generating interest over here. (Case in point: Ask around to see how many folks actually watched the British version of The Office, and you'll most likely find people don't even know one exists.) Well, if there's ever a time to try on a new pair of pants, it's now -- because Wright and Pegg are creating the type of content that we, in America, so desperately need.
The best part of Hot Fuzz is the slow build; it sort of feels like an hour and a half of highly enjoyable
four-play foreplay before being handed a final half hour of pure, unadulterated, no-holds-barred excitement. Almost immediately, we're introduced to top London cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) who, because of an arrest record that's 400% higher than any other officer, is starting to make the entire department look bad. Thus, it takes an all-star team of British talent, lead by Chief Inspector Kenneth (Bill Nighy), to inform Angel that he's being re-located to the quiet, wholesome village of Sandford -- a tight-knit community of folks who wouldn't no a crime if it showed up to their home and cooked them dinner. Upon his arrival, Angel is partnered up with PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). Overweight, good-natured and the type of guy you'd want to take to a football game, Butterman becomes obsessed with Angel's background -- his arrests, his gun fights, his tough-as-nails no nonsense attitude -- and, while on the beat, persists to badger Angel left, right and sideways ("Have you ever jumped through the air whilst shooting two guns?").
Because nothing eventful ever happens in Sandford, Butterman has acquired all his cop knowledge from movies like Point Break and Bad Boys II, two personal favorites. His idea of the perfect on-the-job fantasy is to be put in a situation where he's forced to reluctantly shoot two guns in the air while lying on the ground, a la Keanu Reeves. Things begin to take a darker turn when a few of the locals turn up dead, murdered by a mysterious figure in a black-hooded robe. Since the town folk refuse to accept that these deaths are not unfortunate (and coincidental) accidents, it's up to Angel and Butterman to band together, ignore their differences and figure out what the hell is going on before it's too late. What starts out as a quiet whodunit murder mystery slowly but surely turns into a high-octane homage to some of the more classic American action films -- to a point where it's not hard to spot the Bruckheimer, the Bay and the Woo. When Angel and Butterman finally find a way to bond (over a double-feature viewing of Point Break and Bad Boys II), they become characters trying to emulate other characters (on purpose and by accident). And, not only does it help them solve the crime, but it also provides us with something that's unique, rare and extremely hard to pull off these days: familiar originality.
Though Wright carries over a lot of the same style from Shaun of the Dead (quick cuts, buddy humor, lots of blood and a nice helping of ice cream), the two films are very different. Sure, the main actors are the same and both films are genre satires, but these characters are not slackers and, with Fuzz, Wright and Pegg have created a much more mature story -- one that's well thought-out, finely detailed and overflowing with energetic spirit. Shaun of the Dead is a film you make with nothing to lose, whereas Hot Fuzz is Wright and Pegg's "growth" flick. Here, they're stretching their legs -- utilizing a bigger budget, while dipping into a deeper talent pool -- and the end result is a film that's not quite as fun as Shaun, but definitely more passionate. The beginning is a little silly, the plot lacks a strong female presence (which is done on purpose to up the homoerotic humor) and the run time is a tad longer (121 minutes) than it needs to be, but the film is so enjoyable on so many different levels that these smaller issues aren't worth a second look.
It's also important to note that one doesn't have to see Shaun of the Dead in order to get Hot Fuzz, no matter how many people tell you the opposite. If you dig fast-paced buddy-cop action flicks, then that's Hot Fuzz ... with a British accent. The action sequences are surprisingly well done for someone who's never tackled this type of film before; when they finally arrive, Wright empties his pockets and doesn't look back -- for God's sake, Angel dropkicks a granny in one scene. Oh yes, they go there. It's gratuitous. And it's awesome. Plus, it's refreshing to watch a film where the bad guys really aren't who you expect they are, instead of being force-fed a convoluted conclusion in an attempt to get some sort of reaction out of the audience. So, back to the original question: Is Hot Fuzz better than Shaun of the Dead? No, because it's like choosing which child you love more. Each has its own personality, its own style, its own strengths, and its own weaknesses. And regardless of who turned in the better report card, you'll still gladly kiss them each goodnight at the end of a long, hard-fought day.