Movie Review – Hot Fuzz (2007)

by RISHI AGRAWAL

Hot Fuzz 042507

Admit it. You always wanted to be Keanu Reeves. As police officer Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), could tell you, one of the reasons to become a police officer is so you could leap through the air while firing two guns at once or, in an emotional moment, fire your gun straight up in the air and yell, “Ahhhhh!” Unfortunately, real life is not like Point Break. Or is it? Hot Fuzz works because it is both a parody of bad cop movies, and a pretty good film in its own right.

The makers of Shaun of the Dead put out this comedy, including director Edgar Wright and stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Pegg plays Sergeant Nicolas Angel, a by-the-book police officer from London who is the star of the police force. Worried that Angel is making the rest of the force look bad, his superiors transfer him to the quaint English village of Sandford, a sleepy town which has won the Village of the Year contest. He is teamed with the likable but not too bright Danny Butterman, who wishes that police work was more glamorous. The plot thickens as a series of murders occur in the town, which are staged to look like accidents. The rest of the force is complacent and is not willing to investigate these incidents any further, but Angel is convinced that these deaths are a result of foul play.

Hot Fuzz is not trying to be a great buddy cop drama, but a parody of semi-bad buddy cop dramas. There are very obvious physical gags and scenes that are downright ridiculous, so this is a movie that can be enjoyed by anyone. But there is another deeper level to the parody. Angel and Butterman have deep conversations about being police officers and their lives. Angel is the perfect parody of a cop action hero. He is a good officer, but has never seen real action before. He wanted to become a police officer when his drug-dealing uncle bought him a toy police car. He has a Japanese peace lily which he cares more about than his relationships. You can imagine a bad screenwriter throwing in these details to flesh out his characters en route to the exciting action sequences at the end, when plausibility gets defenestrated. Hot Fuzz follows the same patterns.

The so-called drama in this film is simply a device to move the plot along and get to more comedic moments. The difference between this film and most films is that Hot Fuzz is aware of its limitations and makes no apologies for having the slow moments simply play second fiddle to the car chases and gunfights at the end of the film. These action sequences are well-done. Just because we’re acutely aware that these are simply rip-offs of scenes in other cop movies, that does not make them any less exciting.

I don’t mean to make anyone think this is a lofty film or that the humor is subtle. Some of the parodies may not seem that way on the surface, but there are overtly comical moments as well. One of Angel’s first missions when he comes to Sandford is to capture an escaped swan, a recurring gag throughout the film. There are many standard gags arising out of the incompetence of the police force. That is not to say that these jokes, along with many great one-liners, are not funny. They are just as funny as the rest of the film, but I think the subtler parodies are what set this film apart from most comedies.

If I had to make any criticisms of this film, I would say that some of the characters seem like stereotypes and some of the plot twists come out of nowhere. Unfortunately, when you parody a genre of film, you inherit some of the weaknesses of that genre as well. Sure, the film might be over-the-top ridiculous, but is it any more crazy than a film by Tony Scott or Michael Bay? At least Hot Fuzz doesn’t pretend to be something it’s not.

3 1/2 stars

5 responses to “Movie Review – Hot Fuzz (2007)

  1. I’m actually going to disagree slightly on the intended tone of “Hot Fuzz.” I think that the level of seriousness it sometimes goes for is real as opposed to your interpretation of those moments as being mere filler between the overt parody scenes.

    Like “Shaun of the Dead,” I was impressed with how well the filmmakers drew me into the story in order to make me care deeply about the outcome of the characters and genuinely worry about the danger they were sometimes in. The affection for the action movie genre is apparent in the script and is likely a big contributor to how those scenes play out. A straight-up spoof of the buddy cop genre (like a Zucker brothers’ comedy) wouldn’t have injected so much pathos into the proceedings.

    For example, I really dug and believed the background stories of our heroes during the scene where they explain why they each became police officers. Similarly, I genuinely had the wind knocked out of me during the final moments of “Hot Fuzz.” These guys are experts at using comedy to heighten tragedy and vice-versa.

  2. Very funny movie. I laughed a lot. I vote with James that it’s not really a parody, though. It plays off the excesses of the buddy-cop movie for laughs, but essentially Hot Fuzz is a loving homage to the genre. It is in the same spirit as Chicken Run with its affectionate tribute to WWII POW movies. Buddy-cop movies are enough a part of popular culture that it may not be necessary to have seen a lot of them to enjoy Hot Fuzz, but I would think familiarity with the source would heighten the enjoyment considerably. The filmmakers have certainly seen a lot of those movies many times over.

  3. I still feel, though Hot Fuzz may not have been a Zucker (or Wayans) style spoof, that it is a subtle parody of the genre. Maybe I need to see the film again.

  4. Parody is hard to define. A lot of it depends on tone. I think of parody as making fun of the subject. My feeling about Hot Fuzz is that while many of the jokes were parodic in tone, ultimately the movie was a comic cop-buddy movie rather than a parody of a cop-buddy movie. I would have reacted differently if the filmmakers’ affection for these films didn’t show through so clearly, and if (picking up on what James wrote) the partners’ emotional relationship hadn’t been so strongly realized.

  5. I guess we’re just talking about semantics then. I did think the movie, though mocking of buddy cop movies, still had some respect for the genre it was parodying. Perhaps I was projecting because I personally don’t have much respect for the films it was parodying.

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