Simon Pegg as Sergeant Nicholas Angel
Nick Frost as PC Danny Butterman
Bill Bailey as Sergeant Turner
Tim Barlow as Treacher
David Bradley as Mr. Webbley
Jim Broadbent as Inspector Frank Butterman
Adam Buxton as Tim Messenger
Olivia Colman as PC Doris Thatcher
Paddy Considine as DS Andy Wainwright
Steve Coogan as Metropolitan Police Inspector
Ron Cook as George Merchant
Timothy Dalton as Simon Skinner
Julia Deakin as Mary Porter
Kevin Eldon as Sergeant Tony Fisher
Patricia Franklin as Annette Roper
Martin Freeman as Metropolitan Desk Seargent
Paul Freeman as Reverend Philip Shooter
Alexander King as Aarron A Aarronson
Alice Lowe as Tina
Joseph McManners as Gabriel
Stephen Merchant as Peter Ian Staker
Bill Nighy as Metropolitan Chief Inspector Kenneth
Anne Reid as Leslie Tiller
Rafe Spall as DS Andy Cartwright
Billie Whitelaw as Joyce Cooper
Stuart Wilson as Dr. Robin Hatcher
Edward Woodward as Tom Weaver
Directed by Edgar Wright
The creators of “Shaun of the Dead” deliver a police comedy so brilliantly clever that it’s guaranteed a place as one of the funniest movies ever made.
Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a London super-cop who’s making the rest of the force look bad because he’s so damn good. His superiors give him a promotion, by sending him off to the idle village of Sandford, where he’s partnered with Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), who dreams of a life of car chases and shootouts he’s only seen in movies. While Sandford might seem quiet and mundane, when people start turning up dead, Angel suspects murder, even as those around him are convinced they all suffered tragic accidents.
You might not expect a movie with the above synopsis to be one of the funniest comedies ever made, but knowing that “Hot Fuzz” is the second feature film from the creators of “Shaun of the Dead” and it’s their take on police action movies of the ’70s and ’80s makes for an easier in-point. Anyone who automatically thinks this will be “Police Academy” set in England will be surprised by the number of levels the movie works in, not just as a straight fish-out-of-water comedy or a irreverent satire, but also a loving tribute to the genre, and that’s where the true genius lies in this movie that is far more accessible than “Shaun.”
Simon Pegg’s Nicholas Angel is an über-cop whose resume is revealed in a fast cut opening montage, but since he’s making the rest of the London police department look bad, he’s shipped off to Sandford, a tiny village hours away from the city where their biggest news is the escape of the town swan. In Sandford, he’s surprised by the crimes that slip by in favor of smaller things, and on his first night, he arrests a drunken driver who winds up being his partner Danny (Nick Frost), the eager son of the police chief (Jim Broadbent) who dreams of car chases and shoot-outs like the ones in his favorite movies. When people start dying in horrible ways, Angel uses all his detective skills to find the suspect despite everyone else on the force being convinced that they all died in bizarre and unfortunate accidents.
That’s all you’ll get in terms of plot, since knowing much else is likely to spoil a lot of the fun, but most of the initial humor comes from throwing Pegg’s big city police officer into seemingly crime-free setting, and things bloom from there, as the scenario gives Pegg and co-writer and director Edgar Wright the license to play with police movie cliches and stereotypes, while referencing “classics” like “Point Break” and Michael Bay’s “Bad Boys II” while still retaining their very clear-cut British identity. “Hot Fuzz” is almost like a living, breathing version of “Mad Magazine” where every single scene either involves a recurring joke, a subtle sight gag or a full-on recreation of a scene from an action movie and yet, with all those non-stop laughs, there’s no waste or chaff as every seemingly throwaway comment is turned into a running joke that pays off by the end.
Fans of “Shaun” will be thrilled when the cartoon gore starts spilling, and the movie turns into an ode to ’70s thrillers. Appearances by Ed Woodward from “Wicker Man” and Billie Whitelaw from “The Omen” are almost giveaways, as the movie mines Wright and Pegg’s encyclopedic knowledge of genre films, fully realizing that only a select few will even recognize them. Though I’m never one to notice or comment on film editing, the way the movie’s assembled with extreme close-ups and sound FX adds another level of humor, as does the soundtrack, which goes for obscure retro tunes rather than the latest hot bands. Despite the vast amount of geek intellect put into every frame, the movie’s high point is when they let loose with an unconventional shoot-out in the middle of the town square.
Pegg doesn’t play Nicholas Angel as if he were Shaun in a police uniform, though he’s a similar sad sack at times, acting as the straight man while others around him get the funniest lines and bits. Even if Angel might not be as easily relatable or likeable as Shaun, that’s made up for by Frost’s up-for-anything Danny, and the chemistry between Pegg and Frost drives the humor and makes their relationship so much fun. Though they’re playing entirely different characters, “Shaun” fans will get a few added laughs with in-jokes that will work even to those who haven’t seen it.
The real genius comes in the rest of the casting with well known actors playing against type like former Bond Timothy Dalton as a sleazy pun-quipping supermarket owner who’s the #1 suspect in the murders. Paddy Considine delivers a surprising comic role as one of two detectives who constantly ride Angel and his partner, while Jim Broadbent achieves a new level of caricature with his role as Sandford’s chief of police and Danny’s father. Sure, most of the characters are basically one joke, but that’s what makes them work by satirizing similar genre stereotypes.
The only real problem with “Hot Fuzz” is that there are so many laughs and so many gags and they go by so fast, that it’s nearly impossible to absorb it all in one viewing. “Hot Fuzz” is a movie that demands repeat viewings and most will want to do so in order to study, analyze how they take what seemed like a simple premise and turned it into pure comic genius.
The Bottom Line:
If you’re an honest-to-gosh fan of ’80s police action movies, you’re just as likely to love this as the university intellectuals who enjoy poking fun at them, because “Hot Fuzz” is as much a loving tribute to the genre as it is a spoof. It works on so many levels that everyone who sees it will find things to quote to their friends. With so many laughs from beginning to end, Pegg, Frost and Wright’s latest comic masterpiece proves that “Shaun of the Dead” wasn’t just a fluke and that Sacha Baron Cohen may not be Britain’s finest modern comic export after all.
Hot Fuzz doesn’t open till April 20, but you may still be able to catch it early at one of the Hot FuzzTivals, currently playing around the country.