Hot Fuzz - 7th February 2011

The second feature film from the group that brought us Spaced and Shaun of the Dead is an ambitious, valiant effort to mix many styles and genres together, not least of which is the attempt to bring Tony Scott balletic action to a small and seemingly sleepy west country town.

Firstly, I like all the people involved in this film and I do like Hot Fuzz as a whole. It's a silly, but it the best way, action comedy thriller with a cracking cast, sturdy but wild and inventive direction and a great soundtrack. I consider myself a bit of an Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost fanboy, someone who got and appreciated all the references in Spaced, loved that they did a zombie movie with slow moving living dead and generally would turn up to watch the three of them do pretty much anything (Yes I sat through How To Lose Friends... and I'd even give Edgar one more chance after the disappointing Scott Pilgrim).
So please bare all that in mind when you read the next bit which may seem less than positive.

After many viewings of both Shaun and Fuzz while they are both great and rarely out of my player for long but with repeated viewings some weak spots do emerge that, unfortunately, grate a little more each time I watch them. In the case of Fuzz one of the main things is I am just not sure how funny it is. Yes there are some hilarious moments but at times it feels like there are so many characters and quite a dense plot that constant exposition, while I would never knock anyone for having too much thoughtful plot, can mean that you sacrifice the gag rate.
Also while it's, of course, completely in keeping with the plot, having Pegg be the very solemn straight man for 95% of the film means that they are sort of missing out on 50% of the funny. Now, that does mean that the wonderful Nick Frost gets the limelight to be as fantastic as he has always been and it is true to say that their dynamic is that Simon always plays the foil to Nick's characters be it Mike, Ed or Danny but I still feel Pegg is restricted by his part a little.
The third part of the team's humour was always Edgar Wright's little visual gags or references, some of which, if you've ever listened to the commentary's or watched their pop up info bits on their DVDs can get a bit involved and while this does add a whole other geek infused layer to any of these movies, I am not sure how funny or apparent any of it is. Plus when he tries to do a gag for gags sake, like in Fuzz the idea of the killer always being in plain sight, I am not sure how well they come across as actual jokes. Lastly on the subject of the humour of the piece, I am not sure how funny, interesting or clever it is for the characters to actually talk about openly, and in one scene even watch, other action movies. The whole scene where they watch Point Break and Bad Boys 2 (neither of them personal favourites of particularly good examples of the genre in my opinion) is my least favourite scene in the movie and the things it is meant to do in the plot, highlight Danny's love of action movies to explain why by the time he's in one, he's a natural, point out the fact that all action movies are silly so accept it when the climax of this film happens and to provide the impetus for Angel to go back to the village in the first place could all have been said better and done better without having to ever mention, or show them watching, those movies. Also, they spend all this time setting up all the clever subtle homages like the names of the characters, the names of the places, in the sound effects and in some of the visual flourishes and then they have this one big clunky, creaky reference that doesn't add and actually subtracts from the proceedings.

Leading on from that, the movie spends a lot of time setting up the action heavy climax and referencing a million different action things when the movie is not really an action movie. A quarter of the film is an action movie, the rest of it is a sort-of quintessentially English, Whicker Man style, Agatha Christie type murder mystery plot. Unlike Shaun of the Dead which took the Zombie genre conventions and the Romantic Comedy genre conventions and blurred them seamlessly (because the Zombie genre works perfectly as a metaphor), the same can not be said for Hot Fuzz which has a harder time working out just what it wants to be that, in a way it ends up being none of those things. Now, that also maybe one of it's strong points because it keeps the tone interesting and it keeps you guessing. When I went into the cinema the first time I had no idea about the murder mystery plot, it surprised me and ultimately it gives you a lot more to think about than if it was just a straight action piece but I am not sure how well the genres gel or how it works as a comical or satirical look at either genre.

Lastly, while the cast is completely excellent and almost an in-joke itself, it is a double edged sword because, with so much going on, their screen time is obviously diminished. Timothy Dalton is, of course, the stand out and why he isn't in 100 movies already is beyond me because he's incredible but so many others, while they obviously give it their best, aren't really allowed to show off what they can do. I mean how do you have Bill Bailey in a film and give him absolutely nothing to do?
I also think it's lazy that they gave Edward Woodward one joke and then he repeats it!

All that said though, Hot Fuzz is a fun, interesting ride which teeters on the edge of Edgar Wright's 'throw everything including the kitchen sink' approach of direction without quite falling into the messy and confused abyss of something like Scott Pilgrim, I think when he writes with Simon Pegg they are possible more focused on the story and he uses his camera tricks appropriately.
The thing is and I think a lot of people feel like this, the three of them should stick to making films together in England. After Spaced failed to go to a third series there was a sense of unfinished business and disappointment and then Shaun and Fuzz came out and people thought 'oh, ok then, they are going to continue the dynamic in film, great - but where's Jessica Hynes nee Stevenson???' and now it's been a while since Fuzz and they have moved on to other things but nothing has been as satisfying as when they work together.
I am not sure I care about Pegg being in Star Trek or Mission Impossible, not that he shouldn't do those things but he's better in films he develops himself, we wait to see if Paul is any good when it comes out soon.

For a couple of films though it looked like the three of them could've not just saved but become the British film industry, showing Hollywood that we can do stuff every bit as big and bombastic as they can. Sadly though, with the third part of their 'Cornettos trilogy' looking further and further off and with them all having decamped, albeit temporarily, to the States, that dream, like Spaced season 3, will have to wait. It's great they made the films, disappointing right now they are not making more of them. Right away.

8 out of 10 crumbling cookies.
Points from the Wife 10 out of 10

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