Saturday, April 21, 2007

REVIEW: Hot Fuzz

"Hot Fuzz" is basically working the same British movie-geek joke that Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's last movie, "Shaun of the Dead," was: Take a done-to-death, principally-American genre and drop it incongruously into a gently-satirical vision of merry ol' England. "Shaun" found comedy gold by having a formula "zombie apocalypse" break out in the middle of a London suburb. Now, in "Hot Fuzz," a Jerry Bruckheimer movie breaks out right in the middle of cottage country - with a plot deftly transplanted-by-inversion from "Beverly Hills Cop" and a style that's half-mocking, half-celebrating every overblown actioner that followed "Bever Hills Cop 2."

Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is the (literal) supercop of London. A weapon's-specialist, martial-arts expert, master investigator and by-the-book badass who's 400%-and-climbing performance record is making the rest of his department (superiors included) look shabby by comparison. To rectify, they arrange to have him shipped off to a new position in Sandford, a picture-perfect pastoral village way out in the middle of nowhere with a crime-rate so low the big city Angel is reduced to busting under-age drinking, escaped swans and unlicensed rifles just to keep busy.

The downtime does, however, afford him the opportunity to work on his (standard movie-cop issue, of course) lack of social skills. Fellow Sandford cop Danny Butterman (Nick Frost,) an easily-distracted but good-natured oaf obsessed with police action films, takes an immediate shine to Angel - recognizing him as a "real" vision of the movie-cop's he so admires. It's here we get the first indications that this isn't just another snarky takedown of action cliche's. Like "Team America" before it, "Fuzz" is having fun goofing on the sillier points of the likes of "Point Break" and "Bad Boys 2," but it also 'gets' what makes them so endearing - in this case the affectionate "buddy-cop" bonding routine.

It also 'gets' the fun of Michael Bay-style hero worship (ahem... Sergeant Angel...), as Nicholas finds himself unable to turn off his detective-skill paranoia, and starts to suspect that Sandford's comically-high "accident" rate may be concealing some kind of sinister criminal conspiracy likely involving a local Supermarket bigwig (Timothy Dalton) who - like any good heavy of these movies - spends an inordinate amount of time strutting around acting like an obvious bad guy with something to hide.

What unspools, much like "Shaun," eventually lets the genre-spoof take a backseat to outright genre-worship, and "Fuzz" unveils itself as an honest-to-God kickass action-comedy (after all, can you really "parody" something that's already as much of a walking-joke as Michael Bay movies?) and also a surprisingly biting crack at the expense of rural British hyper-pleasantry. It even has some subtle fun goofing on Tony Scott-esque Ritalin-deprived editing tricks. And it'll be hard for any other actioner this summer, "serious" or otherwise, to top it's bullet-riddled third act for sheer audacity.

Short of "Grindhouse," there isn't a single move playing right now that's more fun that this. See it.