Thursday, March 29, 2007

Hot Fuzz

dir. Edgar Wright

A rare appearence of Haagen Dazs in a movie that, like this reviewer, prefers Ben and Jerry's.

March 5, 2007 - 35mm/Broadway Screening Room

During the invasion of the nearly finished dreamhouse of Cuban drug kingpin Johnny Tapia (Jordi Molla), some hot-shot detectives and CIA super-soldiers happen upon the drug lord’s elderly mother, who in turn pulls a shotgun on them and starts unloading. It is one of the most annoying and unfunny moments in the string of overblown meanness that is Bad Boys 2. That is not to say the Bad Boys saga is not peppered with moments of overblown creativity and humor. The simple state of absolute excess in all areas is bound to yield a degree of brilliance, and in Bad Boys 2’s case, it does. Alas, this minimal, but fierce brilliance is beaten to a pulp by filthy, filthy, aggressive garbage (such as the camp of an old lady firing a shotgun).

With a firm grasp of its wits, a full heart and open arms, Hot Fuzz embraces Bad Boys 2 and the likes of many, many other movies like and unlike it, primarily those concerning police officers. In embracing these pictures, like with the team’s previous movie, Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz takes a Bob Beamon leap from the spoofier side of the tracks and creates a movie that simply, eloquently becomes a member of the genre it initially appears to be spoofing. It is the stuff of reverent homage, made with the virile aggression of Bad Boys 2, but displaced to the English countryside with scenes of dialogue that are directed rather than presented as an annoying necessity separating car chases.

Again (and again and again), like Bad Boys 2 and Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz is a buddy comedy featuring a straight-laced man of action (Simon Pegg) and his doofy doting sidekick (Nick Frost). The buddy cops patrol the rural, isolationist town of Sandford, where the community’s primary concerns are hooded youths and a “human statue” street performer. Needless to say, things are not what they seem and violence ensues, but it is these early character-driven and positively meditative by action movie standards scenes that allow for the success of the chaos to come. Jokes are tossed back and forth between the two buddies and an alarmingly prestigious supporting cast featuring the likes of Jim Broadbent and a mustachioed Paddy Considine. These scenes and jokes (catching an escaped swan, eating ice cream as punishment and so on) are only mildly amusing, but due to their modest existence, when this movie takes off and fully explores its action roots the image of an elderly woman firing off a shotgun actually becomes funny! The smalltime, composed jokiness of previous scenes juxtaposed with full-throttle old lady artillery equals funny!

While these “smalltime” scenes are moments of quiet, the transitions between them are anything but. In Shaun of the Dead, director Edgar Wright utilized a series of three or so quick cuts as transitions from scene-to-scene. Used again in Hot Fuzz, these quick cut, loud-as-all-hell bits drag on and on in the queasy, mean-spirited style of every single scene in Bad Boys 2. The bits eventually develop into the stock “lock and load” gun montage, which, again, is funny though extremely loud and lacking the cocksure bravado Edgar Wright displays when the triggers of those guns are being pulled.

Cars explode, our heroes fire every variety of gun known to humankind and most importantly, bodies start flyin’ and start droppin’. The deft balancing act between the complicated, creative action and inventive and referential comedic one-liners tips Hot Fuzz to the rim of greatness. The movie takes a giant leap forward anytime its characters grow tight-lipped and straight-faced. In other words, the picture gets a whole lot funnier when the characters get serious and curb the chucklesville joke-time.

As the picture wraps up it returns to chucklesville, population: cameo. As brilliant as the likes of Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy are, the movie belongs to Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. They outshine even the otherworldly talents of Jim Broadbent and Paddy Considine, and because of their spark and Edgar Wright’s extraodinary chops as an action director, Hot Fuzz excels. Comparisons will unavoidably be drawn to Shaun of the Dead, as Hot Fuzz is quite close to stylistically being the same movie. They’re both welcome, ambitious additions to their respective genres, and if you like one you’re likely to enjoy the other, but more importantly if you like Bad Boys 2 at all (and damn you if you do!), Hot Fuzz’ll be worthy of more than a hearty Mike Lowrey/Will Smith “WOOOOO!


Joey Devine! said...

I liked bill nighy so much better when he was the science guy.

Nan said...

You write very well.