HOT FUZZ (Edgar Wright, 2007)
London supercop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is so good at what he does that his superiors promote him to sergeant and transfer him so that he'll stop making everyone else look bad. Angel's new assignment places him in Sandford, a postcard town where no murders have been recorded for twenty years. According to one neighborhood watch member, the biggest threat to public peace is the The Living Statue, a performance artist who stands frozen in the square.
Sgt. Angel's no-nonsense, by the book approach in HOT FUZZ clashes with how Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent) runs the department and how his fellow officers conduct themselves. His partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) is like an overgrown kid and treated as such. His punishment for attempting to drive while intoxicated is to bake a cake for the office and keep the freezer stocked with ice cream.
Danny's perception of law enforcement is informed by the hundreds of action movies in his closet, but Sgt. Angel assures him that it's nothing like that on the beat. It certainly isn't in Sandford, where a runaway swan and hoodie-wearing teen vandals are the top priorities.
As he becomes more acquainted with the village, Sgt. Angel observes that the murder rate may be nonexistent because the the accident rate is unusually high. His conclusion that there is a murderer in their midst is scoffed at while the body count rises.
With HOT FUZZ writer-director Edgar Wright and co-writer and star Pegg send up action films in the same vein that SHAUN OF THE DEAD goofed on the horror genre. Rather than engaging in outright parody, they construct an original story that lovingly lampoons cop movie conventions.
HOT FUZZ sprints out of the gate with a sidesplitting montage introducing Angel. Wright pokes fun at action movie grammar and clichés by employing absurdly overdone sound effects to accompany the most mundane tasks (shuffling papers, scribbled signatures), utilizing perpetual motion camerawork when static shots would suffice, and cutting at a breakneck pace. As his GRINDHOUSE trailer for DON'T signified, Wright has a strong feel for imitating filmmaking forms and exploiting them for laughs.
The harried style is carried out through HOT FUZZ, which keeps it clicking for a robust 121 minutes. It's a long running time for a comedy, but the lightning pace prevents the film from lagging. If anything, the speed of the jokes requires strict attention to catch everything.
The screenwriting is efficient and razor-sharp. Seemingly inconsequential lines and references return to produce bigger laughs. So much of modern comedy relies on lazy pop culture name-checking, as if mentioning another movie is inherently funny. Wright and Pegg's screenplay contains plenty of clever wordplay. When they include references, it's in service of creating better jokes. An amusing discussion about POINT BREAK leads to a late scene that has laughs rippling through the audience before the punchline arrives.
Blessed with an airtight script, a sterling cast of comedic actors, and a director in peak form, HOT FUZZ is an arresting farce sure to keep audiences locked up with laughter.