April 26, 2007

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Hot Fuzz (R)
The Shaun of the Dead boys return with their sense s of humor and their DVD collections to make the super-cool buddy-cop action movie Hot Fuzz, the funniest movie ever made about heavily armed English villagers.

Police sergeant Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the most ambitious, by-the-book member of London’s law enforcement. He’s so good, he’s too good. His superiors (Martin Freeman, Bill Nigh, Steve Coogan) have decided he’s making the rest of London’s police force look bad. So they send him to Sandford, a sleepy-seeming village in the country. On his first night in town, Angel makes his mark by arresting a group of underage drinkers and a drunk who attempts to drive home. In the morning, he finds out that the drunk is fellow officer Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) and that the town is much more lax about some crimes than he is. (“Some” being the key word. Underage drinking? At least they’re not out making trouble elsewhere. But graffiti or, even worse, loitering kids in hoodies? Ghastly.) The laid-back police department spends its days eating cake, leaving the crime fighting to the the neighborhood watch association, a perky shadow government. (Every shop owner has a walkie talkie and constantly reports on village happenings.)

Angel and Butterman patrol the streets of Sandford, with Angel attempting to teach Butterman some policing and Butterman trying to explain the wonders of Bad Boys 2 and Point Break. When a series of accidents leads to the gruesome deaths of townsfolk, Angel is able to convince Butterman (because of his desire to fire a gun up into the air, Keanu Reeves style) to help him investigate the possibility that some of these beheadings, explosions and stabbings might not be accidents but are actually murder.

Jim Broadbent as the affable head of the Sandford force leads a group of actors who give us the very best of stereotypical police movie characters — from the wannabe-Serpicos of the two-man detective unit to the dopey but jovial uniformed officers. They police a Sandford full of charming clichés of British country life (we may not have “Best Village” contests here but the oft-stated desire to get rid of the lone street performer the human statue — he’s just not visually pleasing — is a sentiment that’s plenty familiar in small-town New England). And Angel and Butterman are no less archetypal themselves — the by-the-book cop and his makes-his-own-rules partner. They take seriously their roles as the Will Smith and the Martin Lawrence of their own adventure. They even discuss and praise each other for proper use of catchphrases for that final punch to a bad guy’s head.

Hot Fuzz is all quick cuts, suiting-up montages, tight shots of determined eyes and big loud music. It is everything the buddy cop action movie could require it to be, even as it pokes a bit of British fun at that genre as well as at the “for the greater good” mentality of townsfolk so determined to be pleasant they might be willing to commit dun dun DUN mur-der.

Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright, writers of Hot Fuzz and for Shaun of the Dead, have perfected the balance of paying homage to a beloved, slightly cheesy genre, satirizing a genre and using a genre to satirize British culture. They are smart and funny without being mean and without being hackily referential (think Scary Movie). Every performance in Hot Fuzz is spot on, down to the blink-and-you’ll-miss-them roles of Nigh and Freeman. They get the atmospherics right as well — the music, the camera angles, the dialogue. Every part of the movie participates in the send-up without becoming one-note. A

Rated R for violent content including some graphic images and language. Directed by Edgar Wright and written by Wright and Simon Pegg, Hot Fuzz is two hours long and is distributed by Rogue Pictures in limited release.