In 2004, Shaun of the Dead introduced us to Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, three of the most appealing chaps working in film at the moment. A near-perfect blend of parody and fanboy adoration, Shaun mixed together elements of the romantic comedy and zombie sub-genres. Now, with Hot Fuzz, the trio returns with an equally joyous send-up to the buddy-cop action film. Directed by Wright and written by Wright and Pegg, Hot Fuzz, while falling just short of the greatness of Shaun, firmly establishes these young Brits as comedic masters.
Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a London supercop who is sent to a sleepy English village for making the rest of the force (uh, “service”… sorry) look bad. There, he is warmly welcomed by the townspeople, who include Jim Broadbent as the Chief Inspector, Timothy Dalton as a shady local businessman and, of course, Nick Frost as Pegg’s bumbling new partner. However, all is not as idyllic as it seems (is it ever?) and, by the time the third act wonders around, complete action-movie mayhem ensues.
One of the things that sets Hot Fuzz apart from most efforts at parody is the pure exuberance Wright and Pegg obviously have for the genre. Like the relationship of Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof to the grindhouse genre of “carsploitation,” Hot Fuzz celebrates and breathes new life into the tired and often clichéd conventions that govern the genre. The film never becomes a spoof and never descends into scorn. For instance, the often-ridiculed style of Michael Bay - rapid cuts, exaggerated crane shots, and ADD-style, seizure-inducing edits - is used to great effect. In fact, direct references to such films as Bad Boys II and Point Break become important narrative devices. Hyper-aware of its conventional foundation, Hot Fuzz never undermines its predecessors but elevates them to canonical status; instead of subverting the genre, Hot Fuzz is a love song to it. Like Wes Craven’s Scream (and I’m begging you, forget about the sequels, please), Hot Fuzz works as both a parody of the genre and a legitimate entry into it as well.
Part of the genius of Shaun of the Dead was the pitch-perfect chemistry between Pegg and Frost. While not quite as instantly charming in this film, the two remain at the top of their form. They pull off the buddy cop routine, complete with some hilarious scenes of just-hinted at homoeroticism, without missing a beat. While you don’t get the same sense of past history in Hot Fuzz as you did in Shaun, you do get to see the two brilliant comedians playing off each other as only good friends and great actors can. Some cinematic pairings just bring out the best of people - such as Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune or Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck (see what I did there... I just blew your mind). The Pegg and Frost pairing, if we get to see more of it in the future, could prove to be a great thing.
Like Tarantino, Wright and Pegg are filmmakers inspired by the films they watched as kids. The obvious love they have for the genres in which they operate keeps their films fresh and inspired. It’s odd, but two of this year’s most inspired films, first Grindhouse and now Hot Fuzz, are films that do not attempt to be original but which remain firmly rooted in established convention. There’s something exhilarating about this, especially when it’s done correctly and with this much love.