100 Film Favorites – #52: “Hot Fuzz”
(Edgar Wright, 2007)
As with selection #69, X-Men: First Class, this is another instance in which my opinion of a film is greatly influenced by the conditions under which I first saw that film.
Hot Fuzz was the first R-rated movie I saw in theaters without adult accompaniment. I was invited to see it on my friend’s birthday, and wasn’t sure what to expect. Trailers for the film mostly consisted of clips of a police officer engaging various members of a small rural community (a priest, a washerwoman, etc.) in a cartoonishly exaggerated gunfight. Since nearly all the ads for the film used the same clips, I expected the entire movie might be based around a single gag (“I say, rural clergymen don’t pack machine guns! How deliciously absurd!”), and might not be much more than 90 minutes of gunfighting grannies set to the Benny Hill theme.
Coming into a really good movie with low expectations makes the movie seem even better. And this is a really good movie. It turned out that all the trailer clips were taken from a single scene at the film’s climax, and that the majority of the movie features witty dialogue, inspired physical comedy, and the unfolding of a bizarre mystery.
The story (and I’ll try to avoid any major spoilers here) follows Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), the most accomplished officer on the London police force. He is so successful at fighting crime that his superiors accuse him of making his fellow officers look bad, and reassign him to the apparently humdrum and crime-free village of Sandford. Here, Angel is partnered with the bumbling Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the son of the local police Inspector. Intent on maintaining his image as a dedicated crime-fighter, Angel begins cracking down on an assortment of petty crimes, including underage drinking in the village pubs and ownership of unlicensed firearms (such as an active sea-mine which an unintelligible old man keeps locked in his wood shed). Angel’s crusade to obliterate even minor law-breaking makes him largely unpopular among the hamlet’s citizens. However, he does manage to bond with his partner Danny, with Danny gradually instilling in Angel a love for over-the-top 80s action movies, especially those involving cops.
Once Angel and Danny have purged the village of even minor crimes, they’re reduced to spending their days responding to animal control calls, attempting to catch a particularly elusive swan.
Then, the murders start. Various townspeople begin turning up brutally slaughtered, and Angel suspects foul play. Foremost among his suspects is Simon Skinner, a shop-owner played by Timothy Dalton who seems to relish speaking in double entendres crafted to make him as suspicious as possible (“I’m a slasher and I must be stopped…a slasher…of prices!”) But as they investigate the killing spree, Danny and Angel uncover a dark conspiracy intimately tied to the village of Sandford and its history.
This movie is chock-full of gags which never fail to make me laugh. Here are three of them:
1. Angel’s less-than-stellar fellow cops on the Sandford force enjoy playing practical jokes on one another. As the film goes on and Angel finally begins to settle in to the community, he gets in on the act. In one playful prank, an officer pegs a wastebasket at Angel’s head. It bounces off, and Angel merrily retorts, “Oh, you cheeky fucker!”
2. During Angel’s campaign to “clean up the town” of Sandford, he and Danny bust a group of kids for drinking at a pub. After running several of the underage drinkers through a gauntlet of questions, they come to one boy who bears a striking resemblance to “McLovin.” Angel has but to ask, “How old are you?” and McLovin-kid responds with a panicked half-squeak, half-gasp sound that needs to be heard to be appreciated.
3. Another hilarious, yet wordless gag. Angel and Danny are sitting in their squad car finishing ice cream cones. Suddenly cracking the case, Angel commands Danny to “Get us back to the station! NOW!” Shoving the rest of the cone into his mouth, Danny contracts an instant brain-freeze and lets out a sad, cold groan. This is another sound to which mere words do no justice.
Hot Fuzz is the second film in Edgar Wright’s “Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy” (with the first being 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and the last the upcoming The World’s End). These are films directed by Wright which star Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and which also prominently feature Cornetto, a British pre-packaged ice cream cone dessert similar to a Drumstick, somewhere in their storyline. The “Three Flavours” name is a reference to Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski’s renowned “Three Colors Trilogy,” in which each of three films features prominent use of a single color. Based on the sheer excellence of both Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, I am very excited to see what the final chapter of the Cornetto Trilogy has in store.
It’s often said that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Well, you can’t judge a film by its trailer, either. Give Hot Fuzz a watch for a uniquely hysterical buddy cop movie / action flick / gory mystery / quaint travelogue of British hamlets. And whatever you do, don’t forget to point your gun straight up and fire all your bullets into the air while screaming AAAAUUUGGH!