Hot Fuzz (2007): ****
Directed by Edgar Wright
When I saw Grindhouse earlier in the year I was absolutely convinced
that I would not see a better film all year. Hot Fuzz sorely tries
My favorite types of parodies are ones that are so accurate to
the source material that they're trying to parody that they actually
blur the line and become to some extent what they are parodying.
They become so funny because they are so absolutely accurate.
Hot Fuzz does this to a T. It is actually a parody of two different
genres of movies: British police procedural dramas and stupid American
cop action flicks.
But like Edgar Wright's zombie parody Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz
moves beyond just being a parody (or an accurate portrayal of the
type of movies it's parodying) and becomes an honest-to-goodness
good movie. Simon Pegg (also of Shaun) plays Sgt. Nick Angel, one
of those workaholic cops whose only raison d'etre is his job. He's
so good at his job, in fact, that he's making all of the other London
cops look horrible by comparison. Their solution? Have him transferred
out, of course.
So Angel gets transferred (against his will) to a sleepy village
out in the country, and is partnered with a dim-witted but good-natured,
rolypoly, American-cop-movie-obsessed bumpkin (and son of the local
head of police) Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, also of Shaun). At
first Angel is absolutely a fish out of water in this laid-back
place, but soon a strange sequence of coincidental accidents besets
the town. Are they more than coincidental? Or are Angel's big-city
cop senses over-analyzing things?
Under Wright and Pegg's screenplay, Angel and Butterman quickly
become surprisingly three-dimensional characters about whom we come
to care a great deal. The plot is a genuine (if purposefully by-the-book)
mystery. There are exciting twists and turns as there would be in
any good British police procedural. The whole movie becomes so involving
that it builds and builds towards its inevitable and highly satisfying
third act. The movie that in a weird way most closely resembles
Hot Fuzz is Spike Jonez's brilliant Adaptation,
which also careens off in another (similar) direction in its final
act. So well done is this final act that there was one moment that
practically got the entire theater to stand up and cheer. It was
Hot Fuzz succeeds on yet another level: Not only is it
a pitch-perfect parody, not only is it an actual good movie with
involving story and characters, but it is flat out and absolutely
hilarious from beginning to (especially) end, without sacrificing
any of the emotional core of the characters and their relationships.
It is a marvelous balancing act that perhaps even exceeds Shaun
of the Dead.
We'll have to see come end of the year whether Hot Fuzz
or Grindhouse will be my favorite movie of 2007 (I'll own
both movies on DVD by then and will have watched them probably many
times, so I'll better be able to decide). Right now they're practically
neck-and-neck, with Grindhouse having a slight edge just
due to the sheer moviegoing experience it provided. If by some miracle
another movie comes out in 2007 that I like even better than either
of these movies, this will be the best year for movies in a long,
long, long, long time. But I ain't holdin' my breath.