It seems to me that some of the best, or at least the most enthusiastic, filmmakers are film buffs themselves. Quentin Tarantino could tell you who did the lighting on every Western ever made and Martin Scorsese knows film preservation like Carl Sagan knows about outer space. British writers Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright know their zombie movies, hence the making of “Shaun of the Dead” in 2004. Since they also methodically watched action movie ever made, they teamed up again in 2007 for “Hot Fuzz,” which referenced everything from “Point Break” to “Bad Boys II.”
I saw this movie with the perfect crowd for a movie made by action movie fans: other movie fans. It was part of a double feature organized by the film club at the University of Sherbrooke, and of course the other film was “Shaun of the Dead.” I am pretty sure somebody cheered when Nick Frost opens a door to reveal a room full of DVDs. Lets face it, if you’re not a movie nerd, it doesn’t seems like a very good idea to spend your hard-earned money on titles like “Missing in Action II” starring a young Chuck Norris, but I know people who not only have bought such movies but have made oral presentations about it. I guess it’s a guy thing, but Pegg and Wright added enough humour in their script to attract both men and women.
“Hot Fuzz” stars Pegg as police officer Nicolas Angel, the best copper in all of London. In fact, he is so good that his superior Inspector Kenneth (Bill Nighy, who was also in “Shaun of the Dead”) decides he needs to be relocated because he is making the rest of the officers look bad. To his dismay Nicolas is relocated to the village of Sandford, which local Inspector Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent) informs him is the safest village in the country.
Angel’s partner in Sandford is Butterman’s son Danny (Nick Frost, frequent co-star of Pegg) who is fascinated by Angel’s experience with actual crime. He has a room full of action movies you can buy for cheap at convenience stores, and constantly asks Angel if he has ever done anything like what he has seen in those films. Angel tells him real police work is all about gathering evidence and keeping your eyes out for suspicious activities, not running around firing your gun while jumping through the air.
But of course, everything Danny has seen on screen will eventually happen in his life, for this is after all a movie made by people who love action movies. Even though Sandford is a small town, there is something definitely wrong going on beneath the surface. Several citizens begin to suffer gruesome deaths that all look like accidents, but Nicolas correctly suspects murder. His colleagues mock him for seeing crime where there is nothing, but Danny believes him and they begin to unravel a conspiracy that points to the owner of the town’s supermarket, Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton). Not the subtlest name for a villain, but then again the bad guy in “The Expendables 2” is called Jean Vilain and you can be sure Danny would have loved that movie.
It takes a little too long for Nicholas and Danny to uncover the conspiracy and convince the other officers in Sandford, but once they do, the shit hits the proverbial fan. Director Wright joyfully unleashes every cliché in the action movie book. From the moment Nicholas rides into town on a horse with shotguns strapped to his back to the final car chase with the bad guys, we get gun fights, fist fights, explosions, guys firing their guns while jumping through the air, and stupid puns said after shooting someone: “You’re a doctor. Deal with it…motherfucker!”
When “Hot Fuzz” came out, I remember film critic Richard Roeper of Ebert & Roeper saying he never thought he would see the day “Bad Boys II” would influence people. True, that movie was vulgar, crass, and not very smart, but man did it kick ass. Now, if someone takes the best action bits from that movie, injects a lot of self-aware comedy in the script, and hires actors who just want to have a good time while making a good movie, you get “Hot Fuzz.” Can’t wait to see what genre Pegg and Wright will tackle next.