Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Criminally entertaining

The Shaun of the Dead team puts British bobbies in a buddy picture mash-up

Posted By on Wed, Apr 25, 2007 at 12:00 AM

The famous tranquility of the English countryside gets kicked square in the stiff upper lip by Hot Fuzz, the latest offering from the team of actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright, the maverick comedy minds behind Shaun of the Dead. These blokes are not afraid to get their chocolate all over their peanut butter, and where their previous film was a self-described "rom zom com" that nimbly spoofed both horror and romance movie conventions, Fuzz is a wild genre mash-up of macho buddy cop pictures, fish-out-of-water humor and pools of Agatha Christie-style murder-mystery blood. The result is an invigorating, hilarious and occasionally exhausting high-wire act of meta-filmmaking; it's painfully self-conscious, yet eager to provide the same sort of slam-bang thrills it wants to take the piss out of. That it so often succeeds is a direct result of the creators' obvious passion; they honestly adore idiotic action junk like Bad Boys 2, and are only slightly embarrassed about it.

Pegg, who co-wrote the script, stars as grimly efficient supercop Nicholas Angel, ace of the London Metropolitan Police. He's so good, in fact, that his arrest record is 400 percent higher than that of his fellow officers. As his superiors kindly point out, he's making the rest of them look like rubbish. The result: Angel gets promoted to sergeant then unceremoniously shuffled off to the drowsy country village of Sanford.

In this bucolic hamlet, crime is little more than a rumor, and the local constabulary is more than happy to keep it that way. The local law is none too pleased when on his first night in the town pub, Angel manages to roust all the underagers from their pints and arrest the other half of the population for general drunkenness, unwittingly locking up goofy fellow cop Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). Turns out he's also the son of the chief inspector (Jim Broadbent), an amiably relaxed chap, who'd rather keep the jail cells empty for fear of offending the judges of the upcoming "village of the year" contest. Of course, Angel still has the razor's edge, and he can't help but search for clues under every tea cozy, much to the delight of Danny, who never faces anything more dangerous than brain freeze and longs to experience some big city-style law enforcement. Soon enough, a series of gruesome "accidents" sends the fatality count soaring, putting our crimefighters on the hunt for suspects. Getting in on the fun is a Brit-comedy dream team, including Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan and a very funny Timothy Dalton.

On the downside, what should be a breezy film is too long by a good 15 minutes. It bogs down in the middle, in particular, hung up on whodunit mechanics. Its spastic editing is too close to Michael Bay for comfort, and it's curiously missing a love story, save the mildly homoerotic undertones of the leads.

But it all leads to a climax so deliriously violent and inventive that it boggles the mind and tickles the funny bone with overkill. It takes balls to admit your unabashed love for explosive schlock like Point Break. To turn such silly fare into a canny spoof also takes a whole lot of brains.

Corey Hall writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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