Friday, May 11, 2007

Hot Fuzz

At the risk of being unpopular, I was slightly disappointed by this movie. Shaun of the Dead is one of my favorite movies, and Edgar Wright is a brilliant director, but Hot Fuzz just didn't quite meet my expectations. It's entirely likely that my expectations were so high, they would impossible to meet. Nick Frost and Simon Pegg reaffirm their roles as a brilliant duo, and even the sometimes rather difficult to understand British humor won't be lost on an American audience.

Simon Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, a stellar police officer who is transferred from London to the country town of Sanford. Here he starts encountering strange deaths that everyone (including the law) pass off as accidents. This is immediately a fantastic premise, with the big city cop trying to fit in with small town crime (catching an escaped goose for example). Throw in Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), as a bumbling but good natured side-kick, and you have an enjoyable romp through British humor.

Through most of the movie I was fully prepared to give this a glowing review, but towards the last half hour or so of the two hour+ movie, I started to fade a bit. After an absurd, but funny twist, the whole structure breaks down into a long, over the top, gun battle. Keep in mind that this is all done in a very self-aware manner, paying homage, and poking fun at action and cop movies. The movie comes across like the film-makers were just purely having fun. And it was fun, but it began to wear a little thin for me.

Those who have seen Shaun of Dead will be pleased to know that Wright reprised his almost trademark rapid fire, jump cut style of directing. The quickly paced closeups, and rapid scene transitions that seemed so original in Shaun of the Dead plays an even larger roll here. In the beginning, I thoroughly enjoyed this, but by the end, the sporadic editing, and almost unwatchable camera moves started giving me a headache.

As I said earlier, references to other movies are aplenty. Point Break and the Bad Boys movies are talked about in great length, and the stereotypical "flying through the air, firing your gun," is a prevalent theme. There was even a deliciously subtle Chinatown reference (at which sadly I was the only person in the theater who laughed). Perhaps the others were too busy laughing and commenting on the over blown and theatrical blood and gore that accompanied the second and third acts. These scenes were done a little too extreme for me.

This is very similar stylistically to Shaun of the Dead, with the absurd, over-the-top, and just goofy creating of characters and situations. The reason I think that it worked so much better the first time around, is that with a zombie movie, the audience accepts that in this world, anything can happen. Unfortunately Hot Fuzz had the handicap of being grounded in a real world, and when they broke out of that reality, it almost shattered my enjoyment of the movie. I feel it would have turned out much better if they had brought it back a notch, and stuck to the brilliant character dynamics they had spent most of the movie developing.

In the end, despite all of the theatrics (always accompanied by bombastic sound effects), it is at heart a buddy flick. The true character arc is in Angel and Butterman. Angel learns to lighten up, and Butterman learns to be a hero. In fact, if you exam the movie with traditional definitions, it could be argued the Butterman is actually the hero of the movie. I adore the on-screen chemistry the two of the have, and their interaction with those around them. I wish the movie could have stayed focused a little more on the two of them, and tones down the absurdity a bit. Don't get me wrong, I laughed- a lot. I spent most of the movie laughing, until I started yawning.


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