Hot Fuzz

Thursday, July 05, 2007


The trouble with the British police is that they're not very sexy. Just compare them to the Americans. The Americans get guns; we get truncheons. The Americans wear caps; we wear helmets that resemble breasts. The Americans get NYPD Blue, Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice; we get Dixon of Dock Green, Z-Cars and The Bill. There's an imbalance there, one that Hot Fuzz fully recognises.

The beginning of Hot Fuzz presents us with a cop called Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) who has the best arrest record in his station (400% better to be exact). But while in America this would be a cause for admiration and pats on the back, here it's bad form. He's making everyone else look bad. So therefore he's sent to the country, to a place that has no crime and a place that has won the village of the year competition.

One of the funniest scenes occurs quite early on when Angel is new to the town. He goes to the pub and slowly realises that most of the drinkers are underage. Unable to switch off and let it pass, he begins to interrogate the kids. 'When's your birthday?' he asks one youth. '22nd February.' 'What year?' 'Every year.' 'Get out.' I love the kid's sarcasm and Angel's disgusted reaction. And then even better, he asks the same question to a geeky, bespectacled kid. Rather than make up a phoney date, the kid can only squeal in horror. He's then thrown out. It's silly humour, but it works.

Another silly piece of humour I enjoyed occurs even earlier than the pub scene. After being transferred, Angel visits his girlfriend, who's a crime scene investigator. Therefore, when he visits her as she's working, she's wearing a white jumpsuit and mask. 'Jeanine, I've been transferred,' he says. 'I'm moving away for a while.' 'I'm not Jeanine,' comes the reply, in a man's voice. And then Angel, after having the real Jeanine pointed out to him, repeats the dialogue. It's a piece of Naked Gun humour (a film that I love).

Even sillier, though, and generating an even bigger laugh from me, is a late scene between Angel and PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, funny as ever). It's an earnest turning point scene, a scene that happens in virtually every buddy cop film. In this case, Danny is trying to get his pal to leave the village so that he doesn't get hurt. 'Go back to Lond-on,' he says. Words just can't do it justice, but I honestly thought Frost's line delivery was the best thing in the film. I also love the line: 'He's not Judge Judy and executioner'.

On the other hand, some of the broader humour doesn't work quite as well. Fair enough, it's brilliant when Angel dropkicks a shotgun-wielding granny, but the shoot-out scenes lose their charm pretty quickly. Maybe it's because they're too similar to recent action films they're mimicking. I just can't stand that jerky, over-edited style of action. It gives me brain ache.

Having said this, the action does recover towards the end with one of the main villains (excellently played by Timothy Dalton) getting speared through the chin by the spire of a model church. It's magnificently over the top.

Also worthy of big laughs are the numerous killings. With people getting decapitated, stabbed in the throat with shears, and best of all, spiked in the head by church masonry, you have enough blood to fill a dozen horror films. But while it's a surprise how violent Hot Fuzz is (much more so than the current brand of watered down action flicks), it's a pleasant surprise. I'm personally all for heads being exploded in geysers of blood. There should be more masonry-related violence.

But back to the film's silly humour, just as funny as these blood-filled 'big' moments is a tiny moment when Angel and Danny are talking to their rivals in the CID. They're arguing and squabbling and the two detectives move out of frame, but then Paddy Considine moves his head back into the shot. It's one of those things that has to be seen, but it's one of the best bits in the film.

However, as good as the film is, I do have to say that there are sections where the film drags. Occasionally there are large gaps between laughs. Part of this is because the film actually has a plot – from time to time there's quite a bit of exposition - and part of it is because the film feels a little long. You feel it could have been tightened.

But none of this seriously affected my enjoyment of the film. And it's also worth noting that behind all the wonderfully dumb jokes and bad taste humour, there's a bit of social commentary. The village society in this film, after all, kills anyone that doesn't conform to their standards of behaviour – gypsies, teenagers and hoodies are popular targets. Therefore the film seems to be slyly attacking the parochial attitudes of middle class England. For all the overt violence of London you have a more insidious type of violence existing in certain parts of the country and amongst certain people. But whether this message makes an impact is debatable. There's too much other stuff going on, most of it involving guns, decapitation and silly one-liners...which is fine by me.

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