Thursday, April 19, 2007

Hot Fuzz (2007)

I've already seen Hot Fuzz a little more than once, and I'm itching to see it again. It's sense of fun, of action, of camaraderie is utterly infectuous. It's one of those instant classics: you see it once and you know you'll see it again and again and one day you'll own it and you'll probably be watching it and quoting it the rest of your life.

I'm not officially reviewing Hot Fuzz for IFC this week because we went to Austin, Texas and covered this junket and event that they did called the "Hot Fuzztival." They're pretty much puff pieces but they were a lot of fun to shoot and they came out really well (you can see them here, here, and here). But they kinda throw journalistic integrity out the window.

Thank goodness Termite Art doesn't have any, and I can tell you that this British comedy, that both mocks and celebrates all the worst buddy cop movie cliches, is easily the best comedy of the year so far (sorry Blades of Glory, it's true). Even more successfully than the creators' previous film, Shaun of the Dead, it manages to point out all the stupidest, laziest, hackiest screenwriter tricks of the trade, and then pulls them off itself for huge laughs.

I think the trick comes from the fact that even though these guys are taking a piss, they're not doing it in a mean-spirited way. In a lot of genre parodies (pretty much everything not done by Brooks or the Zuckers, and a few of the ones they've made too), you get the feeling the filmmakers don't like the movies they're satirizing. They're making fun and laughing at, not with. In contrast, director/co-writer Edgar Wright, star/co-writer Simon Pegg, and star Nick Frost are clearly fans of the movies they're referencing, and they just as often homage these movies as send them up (take, for example, the subtle but clear echo of the original Lethal Weapon in the final dramatic fist fight). They know flicks like Bad Boys and Point Break are pretty stupid. But they also know they are pretty entertaining, too. In my junket interviews with Pegg and Frost, they called the film Wright's love letter to Clint Eastwood and the finished product bears it out. They think the idea of these supercops is pretty ridiculous. But they want to believe in it too.

Pegg plays Sgt. Nicholas Angel, the best cop on the London police force. Unfortunately for him, he's so good, that the rest of the lazy-do-nothing cops want him out so his immaculate record stops making them bad in comparison. So he's shipped off to a sleepy town in the country where the official line is nothing happens. But, as Peggs put it to me in our interview, it's actually "the beating heart of corruption in the British Isles, and ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE." And hot fuzzy damn does it ever.

Hot Fuzz starts out a lot like Shaun of the Dead, very subtle, very dry observational comedy about British life. But both movies build to breaking points: in Shaun it's when the zombie menace threatening the survivors stops being cute and starts being genuinely dangerous (and the characters we've grown to love start to die). Shaun is a well-made movie, and a very well-researched one too (check out the DVD trivia track to learn just how deep the obscure references to other zombie movies go) but that disjuncture between comedy and horror is a bit jarring for me, and a bit too dark as well. Hot Fuzz on the other hand, builds to the moment when Angel finally gets to "bust this thing wide open" and does so by arming himself like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Commandoand taking to the streets in an astoundingly ridiculous (not to mention astoundingly entertaining) shootout. Instead of going over the top into death and darkness, Hot Fuzz goes over the top into fun and silliness. And when it did, I couldn't have been happier.

This is the movie you must see this weekend. If you don't, you deserve to be shipped off to a sleepy town in the country.


Blogger Pete said...

I am so looking forward to seeing this! Not since Gromit have I been so excited about a film. How can anyone not be an anglophile?

10:16 PM  
Blogger Don Rodriguez from The Bronx said...

I'm not sure if it was a joke in the film, or if it's your joke (if it is, it's a pretty funny twist on the phrase), but if you're being straight, the actual English phrase is "taking THE piss." You could alternatively describe the whole enterprise as a "piss-take" as well. I'm TOO much the Anglophile to let that one go, though generally I hate being the party-pooper. Or pisser, as the case may be. Me: excited for this film nonetheless!

10:36 AM  

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