Combustible Celluloid
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With: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Robert Popper, Joe Cornish, Chris Waitt, Eric Mason, Billie Whitelaw, Peter Wight, Julia Deakin, Bill Bailey, Paul Freeman, Trevor Nichols, Elizabeth Elvin, Stuart Wilson, Lorraine Hilton, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Kevin Eldon, Karl Johnson, Olivia Colman, Edward Woodward, Patricia Franklin, Anne Reid, Kenneth Cranham, Adam Buxton, Stephen Merchant, Tim Barlow, Ben McKay, Rory McCann, Alice Lowe, Ron Cook, David Threlfall, Lucy Punch, David Bradley, Colin Michael Carmichael, Maria Charles, Alexander King, Cate Blanchett, Steve Coogan, Peter Jackson
Written by: Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright
Directed by: Edgar Wright
MPAA Rating: R for violent content including some graphic images, and language
Running Time: 121
Date: 02/13/2007

Hot Fuzz (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

The Ballad of a Tricky Bobby

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most movies are influenced by other movies, but the trick is to find just the right shade of parody, tribute and outright copying. It's harder than it looks; most parodies wind up collapsing into the same formula they're trying to rise above, and many copies simply lack the baseline inspiration to make them truly soar. Director Edgar Wright and his co-writer/leading man Simon Pegg appear to have hit upon a winning combo. In Shaun of the Dead (2004), they ostensibly set out to spoof the zombie genre, but wound up instead creating a keenly observed comedy that merely happened to be set in and around a hoard of zombies.

Their exuberant, hilarious new film, Hot Fuzz, changes direction slightly; the rules for zombie films are fairly simple, but the rules for cop films range all over the map. For example, we have "loner" films like Dirty Harry, we have buddy movies like Lethal Weapon, and we have in-between movies like The French Connection. Hot Fuzz considers all these movies and more, devouring them and re-arranging them like colorful DVDs on a shelf. (In one sequence, two cops sit down for a late-night DVD double-bill of Point Break and Bad Boys II.) One of the main plot threads comes from the horror classic The Wicker Man (1973), in which a puritan cop comes to a small village to investigate the disappearance of a girl. (Edward Woodard, the star of that film, also appears here.)

In Hot Fuzz, the hyper-perfect London cop Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is transferred to the tiny village of Sandford because his extraordinary arrest record makes other cops look bad. There he becomes concerned with a rash of "accidental" deaths, though everyone else shrugs him off. He befriends local cop Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the son of the chief inspector (Jim Broadbent), and together they uncover a sinister conspiracy. Amazingly, the film does not shy away from their homoerotic bond; there is no female love interest.

In the grand tradition of Jerry Bruckheimer, the film's final third unleashes an astonishing series of shootouts, chases, fights, leaps, sprints, struts, and one-liners. (They even track down an errant swan.) Unlike Bruckheimer, however, Wright shoots these sequences with exactly the right mix of dazzle, clarity and parody.

Hot Fuzz also lines up an extraordinary who's-who of great British talent (only Helen Mirren's Jane Tennison is missing). In an early sequence, Angel is called in to speak to his superior officer (Martin Freeman), then the next officer up (Steve Coogan) and then the next (Bill Nighy). Wright knows the precise impact of these faces as they appear, and their considerable charisma feels correctly used. Indeed, every facet of this film finds its proper place. Rather than buckling under all those old cop movies, Hot Fuzz is more like the result of them.

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