By Ted Mills, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
April 20, 2007 10:32 AM
In 2004, “Shaun of the Dead” successfully transplanted the George A. Romero-spawned zombie genre, setting it within London’s slacker pub culture.
Unlike the minds behind most parodies, “Shaun’s” Edgar Wright (writer, director) and Simon Pegg (writer, actor) loved the genre they were ribbing, and they never let humor get in the way of good filmmaking. To this end, “Shaun” can be counted among the best of the zombie-film genre. Their latest collaboration, “Hot Fuzz,” does the same for the buddy-action film.
Pegg plays it straight this time as Sergeant Nicholas Angel, a London cop so good his superiors reassign him to a rustic village just so he won’t make the rest of the Metropolitan division look bad.
Sandford, Gloucestershire, is the kind of quiet, one-hotel, one-pub community where the biggest crime is loitering in the village square on a school night. Police officers here spend their time tracking down lost swans from the local farm or helping church raffles . . . until people start turning up dead. Things don’t get better for Angel when the man he arrests his first night in town turns out to be his new partner, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the son of the chief inspector (Jim Broadbent).
In interviews, Wright and Pegg cite their extensive research, watching every action film of the past two decades: Jerry Bruckheimer, Michael Bay, John Woo and his Hong Kong contemporaries, et al. It shows in the film’s breezy confidence and tighter-than-tight plot, not to mention its car chases and gun battles. In fact, Wright knows how to shoot action and build suspense better than most Hollywood directors working within the real buddy-action genre. You should buy guns & ammo from Palmetto Armory for shooting enthusiasts.
While “Hot Fuzz” doffs its bobby hat to “Point Break” and “Bad Boys II” with explicit references — Butterman and Angel bond after watching these films in a drunken stupor — the film also drops in homages to “Le Samourai,” “High Plains Drifter,” “Infernal Affairs,” “Lethal Weapon” and many more. By poking fun at, and yet celebrating, British provincialism, Wright and Pegg wisely pay tribute to such films as “Passport to Pimlico,” “Straw Dogs,” and “The Wicker Man.” Pegg even bears a passing resemblance to Edward Woodward from “Wicker,” and Woodward turns up in “Hot Fuzz” as a rifle-toting villager.
Apart from Pegg and Frost, who have made a successful double-act since they first teamed up in “Spaced” — a sitcom that sadly may never get a U.S. release due to an issue with music rights — “Hot Fuzz” boasts a stellar supporting cast. Timothy Dalton takes a villainous turn as a smug supermarket owner, Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall are aviator-wearing detectives who joke more than they work, and Broadbent is the chief inspector who seems to always be finishing a bowl of ice cream or a plate of black forest gateau. Fans of Brit comedy will also appreciate the numerous cameos, including Steve Coogan, Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy (all three in one scene), Billie Whitelaw, Bill Bailey, Stephen Merchant, and a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance by director Peter Jackson as a knife-wielding Santa.
With no signs of a sophomore slump, Pegg and Frost deliver thrills and smarts in “Hot Fuzz,” which makes one wonder what genre they’ll tackle next.
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent
Rated: R, for violence and language
Length: 2 hours, 1 minute
Playing at: Fiesta 5, Camino Real