Watch out, here come the Fuzz!

First, a quick question: did you see and enjoy “Shaun of the Dead?” If you did, then you can quite happily skip the rest of this review and go out and buy some tickets if you are in the U.K. or book advanced ones if in the U.S. If you haven’t seen “Shaun,” then read on.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a lean, mean crime-fighting machine. He lives and breaths “the Force,” his hobbies are even all geared toward pushing him to the limit and perfecting his physical and mental powers. Of course, his girlfriend (Cate Blanchett) is less than impressed. She comes a distant third in his life behind his Japanese peace lily. (Yes, it does get used for violent purposes later on in the movie). Her brief appearance signals the early death of romantic cliche in the film. His colleagues and superiors, too, are less than inspired — his 400 percent arrest record puts the whole of the Met to shame. They conspire to transfer him to sleepy Sandford as a desk sergeant.

Leaving London’s bright lights behind, Angel sinks further and further into despair as his mobile signal slowly fades. Upon arrival in Sandford he immediately makes an impression arresting a cabal of underage drinkers and unwittingly arresting his soon-to-be-partner PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) for drinking and driving. His first day at work sees Angel bear the brunt of local hostility from the motley crew that makes up his new colleagues. After some “routine” rural police work, swan-chasing and rounding up some unlicensed firearms, a collision that decapitates a local thespian and his mistress soon leads Angel to suspect that there is a lot more to Sandford than meets the eye.

Sandford is a giant rural stereotype. Its welcome sign proclaims that “everybody cares,” but just in case, everybody carries a gun. Everybody speaks funny and rolls their r’s horribly. A night out always starts at your front door and ends down at the local pub. The inhabitants are similarly stereotypical, we have the local “loose woman” PC Doris Thatcher (Olivia Colman), the shady businessman Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), the genial reverend Philip Shooter (Paul Freeman) and so on.

Stereotype comedy is increasingly seen as an easy way to make money, especially from the teenage market (witness the “Scary Movie” series, “Epic Movie,” etc.). It would thus be unfair to accuse “Hot Fuzz” of striking originality; however, it is still relatively fresh in its execution. Pegg is as funny a tough guy with a softie inside as he is a softie with a tough guy inside (“Shaun of the Dead”) and Frost is a near perfect foil.

The exaggerated gore factor is high, as was the case with “Shaun.” As a film, it is very much as it is billed — “from the makers of …” — although thankfully we are spared any in-jokes. It seems like Pegg intends to do a tour of all the different movie genres and lampoon each of them in turn. This will be no bad thing as long as innovation is shown along the way and it doesn’t rely on a formulaic “guaranteed cash-cow.” The demise of the “Scary Movie” franchise should provide a stark warning to “Hot Fuzz” of the dangers of that approach.

As with “Shaun,” however, its one flaw is how you sometimes get the feeling that the film is taking itself too seriously. I think this has something to do with Pegg himself who seems to try to step out of the comedy when the serious moments arrive. It lends those moments an awkward feel and in some way spoils the flow of the movie. If you are looking for serious themes then there is the “buddy cop” bonding of Frost and Pegg, Pegg’s journey of self-discovery and the underlying theme that trying to perfect the un-perfectible (that is, human beings) is bad and leads to much badness and imperfection. This is one movie where I simply wouldn’t bother. Just sit back, munch your popcorn in-between giggles and enjoy the full fury of the “Fuzz.”


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