Review: Hot Fuzz

As much as it teeters on the thin line of absurdity, "Hot Fuzz" (IMDb listing) is no parody. It's a valentine to blockbuster Hollywood action films posturing and unrelenting violence, strained through the generous wit and perfect execution of Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is London's finest police officer and a great pain to his fellow, and far lazier, cops. Transferred to the small, peaceful village of Sandford, Angel discovers his co-workers are a group of complete boobs, led by an Inspector (Jim Broadbent) who seems more concerned with ice cream than crime. Partnered with goofball Frank Butterman (Nick Frost), Angel is aghast to find the village an absolute bore. His interests are soon piqued when a series of accidents turns out to not be accidents at all, but a string of murders nobody but Angel is prepared to deal with adequately.

"Shaun of the Dead" (2004) introduced this filmmaking duo to the world stage, and the results were fantastic. "Dead" was a dented piece of wonderful; a zonked-out horror/comedy that paid careful attention to its zombie forefathers while furthering a pub-centric personality all on its own. "Fuzz" demonstrates a further commitment to tone from director Wright. "Fuzz" is a more ambitious, risk-taking production, and the challenge invigorates Wright's impressive directorial muscle.

"Fuzz" takes its cues from all over the action film map, butit uses the Bruckheimer/Silver catalog of bullet cinema as the pie crust for his own creation. It's homage, idolatry, and satire all bundled up nice and neat, while also leaving room for the filmmakers to nurture their own brand of silliness and sharp, wicked deviations in tone.

The screenplay by Wright and Pegg is an airtight affair that pays specific attention to speed. From the first frame, everything is being hurled with such breathless momentum, it pins you to your seat. The beauty of "Hot Fuzz" is that in this fury to cover characterization and plot at top velocity, Pegg and Wright still manage to sneak rounded personalities into the film and a wonderful feeling of menacing isolation to the Sandford locales. "Fuzz" moves like a rocket, but never at the expense of a lush understanding of Angel's new world or his mental difficulties adjusting to his drab life and dense partner.

While cop machismo is attended to nicely, Wright and Pegg are really trying to construct a mystery here, offering up a host of villagers who might either be sweet old people or bloodthirsty killers. Played by some wonderful English talent (it's great to see Timothy Dalton play a role with substance again), the tension of Angel's suspicion is the heart of "Hot Fuzz," with Wright following it through on every possible level. It leads to a great deal of gruesomeness (one sequence paying direct tribute to "The Omen") that might take some viewers off guard, but that's what makes the picture such a treasure: you never know what's coming next.

When it comes to pop culture shout-outs, "Hot Fuzz" has a full dance card (the "He-Man" reference is hilarious), but the two films the picture hugs the most are "Bad Boys II" and the sublime Zen actioner "Point Break." Building up Angel's frazzled confusion over Sandford's reluctance to investigate the increasing murders, "Hot Fuzz" reaches a fever pitch of dramatic development that can only lead to one resolution: utter mayhem.

"Hot Fuzz" explodes in the final 30 minutes, playing with all the action craziness Wright and Pegg can muster. It's a comic juggernaut of a finale, rifling through absurdist heights at top volume while also showing Michael Bay the proper way to use his own visual fingerprints. Armed to the teeth, Angel and Butterman transform themselves into Burnett and Lowrey, blasting away at the enemy with an uproarious usage of cliched action choreography and neck-breaking editorial velocity. Butterman even gets his prized opportunity to channel Johnny Utah's constipated fury in one of the film's better callbacks.

It might sound an inch too precious and self-aware, but "Hot Fuzz" is a delightfully contained piece of entertainment, free of fat and winks. It's a triumph of complicated tone that solidifies Wright as a top shelf director and Pegg and Frost as this generation's answer to Abbott and Costello.

Filmfodder Grade: A