Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Hot Fuzz (2007)

The Airplane! of buddy films

Imagine what would happen if Terry Pratchett watched too much Reno 911 and wrote a script for a Naked Gun movie - you'd end up with something awfully hilarious like Hot Fuzz, a comedy filled to the brim with wide-ranging parodies of B-grade buddy cop actioneers, whodunnits, British pastorals and cowboy westerns - and that's just for starters. Director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead) proves that he's no one-trick pony with this wild and entertaining movie.

Here's the set up, which you'll miss if you turn up even a minute late: Nicholas Angel, arguably the finest cop in the London metropolitan police force - only because he's really obsessed with crime-busting to the extent of setting everyone around him on edge - suffers an injury that provides an excuse for his superiors to reassign him to a nice tiny village in the middle of nowhere, so as to presumably get the type-A bundle of nerves off their backs and to give themselves a chance at the awards he's been monopolising. From then on, it's like a trip to the opposite of the Twilight Zone for Nicholas and the audience, because the town of Stanford is so perfectly pastoral crime-free slice of heaven, winning effortlessly the Best Town in UK award for decades on end and populated by such agreeable and reasonable folks that like Nicholas, you would feel just the slightest twinge of paranoia, of being stuck in a strange and looney alternate reality. And then you start guffawing as how ridiculously mundane and insanely eccentric the populace is - as though they are provincial analogues of characters from a Discworld novel. The joke just gets better as dead bodies start piling up in town and no one - not even the village police department! - gives credence to Nicholas's insistence that these cannot be mere accidents...

What is hilarious - aside from the sheer drollery of the plot and over-the-top characters - is the amount of in-jokes and parodies that the director and scriptwriters squeeze into the movie. I tried counting, but gave up 15 minutes in... There are references to Die Hard, John Woo, awful but guilty pleasure movies like Break Point and Bad Boys, Harry Potter and Monty Python, Luc Besson and the Toho Godzilla films. They all manage to fit into the movie in completely unforced and unexpected ways, while the movie itself manages to sucker-punch the cop movie, murder mystery and pastoral genres for desserts. That's probably why this comedy - not too far different from what Mel Brooks, Jim Abrahams and the Zucker brothers when they were at the top of their game - ends up with an impressive hit-miss ratio: I couldn't actually recall a single joke, comic reference, or even sight gag that actually fell flat in this movie!

First published at incinemas on 21 June 2007

No comments: