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From the DVD Shelf: Hot Fuzz (2007)

I consider Shaun of the Dead to be a near-flawless work of comedic genius.  I’m not a fan of Zombie movies, but that didn’t stop me from falling head-over-heels in love with the bizarre, comedic creation of Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright.  Shaun of the Dead lead me to seek out Pegg & Wright’s first collaboration: the 14-episode British TV series Spaced.  (Read my review here.)  Somehow, though, I had completely missed Pegg & Wright’s 2007 release: the feature film Hot Fuzz.  Oh, I knew of Hot Fuzz, and I had wanted to see it for some time.  I just hadn’t gotten around to it until now.

In Hot Fuzz, Simon Pegg plays the tough, no-nonsense London cop Nicholas Angel.  He takes his job extraordinarily seriously, and he’s extraordinarily good at what he does.  So good, in fact, that the rest of the London police department hates him, and so they arrange to have him transferred out of London and to the sleepy little British town of Sanford.  Poor Angel doesn’t know quite what to do with himself in his bucolic, crime-free new home.

As was the case in Shaun of the Dead and Spaced, Pegg’s character is paired up with Nick Frost.  Mr. Frost plays Danny Butterman, the bumbling but well-meaning police officer with whom Angel is partnered in Sanford.  But while Pegg & Frost’s characters were, in their two prior collaborations, presented as life-long best-mates, here in Hot Fuzz the two take an immediate dislike to one another.  Well, Angel takes an immediate dislike to Butterman.  Butterman, though, idolizes Angel, who he looks up to as a “big city” tough-guy cop like he knows from the movies.  It’s a great pleasure to watch Pegg and Frost paired up yet again.  The two have a terrific chemistry, and they just dominate any scenes that they’re in together.  It’s fun to see them play characters who have, at first, a more antagonistic relationship towards one another.

Hot Fuzz is a very funny film.  Pegg and Frost are extraordinary natural comedians, and the film is filled with a number of other top-notch comedic actors.  There’s a great bit of business early on in the film in which we meet Angel’s supervisors in the London police department, played by Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, and Steve Coogan.  Jim Broadbent is a lot of fun as the jolly inspector Frank Butterman, Danny’s father and the head of the police department in Sanford.  But my favorite performance belongs to former James Bond Timothy Dalton, who is absolutely hilarious as the dashingly good-looking, possibly sinister Sanford super-market owner.  What perfect casting, and Dalton absolutely knocks the role right out of the park.

Where Hot Fuzz falls down, for me, is in the storyline that eventually develops in Sanford, in which the sleepy town is stricken by a series of possibly connected murders.  There’s a lot of comedy to be had from the storyline of a tough, street-hardened big-city cop bringing his violent, take-no-prisoners ways to a peaceful small town.  But the film quickly abandons that idea.  Since we learn soon after Angel’s arrival that Sanford, despite outward appearances, is anything BUT peaceful, the wind is taken quite out of the sails of that particular joke.  It quickly becomes apparent that Angel’s big-city methods ARE needed in Sanford.  To be honest, that was a bit disappointing to me.  And when the film, in its climax, becomes a tongue-in-cheek version of the type of hyper-violent buddy-cop films that Danny Butterman loves to watch on DVD, I found myself somewhat disinterested in the goings-on.  For a film like this to really work, not only does the comedy have to hit home, but the viewer needs to connect to the more serious, high-stakes story that eventually develops.  (No film accomplishes that dual task better, in my mind, than Ghostbusters.)  Hot Fuzz has a lot going for it, but it’s no Ghostbusters.

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