Hot Fuzz was not the movie I’d hoped it would be.
And then, suddenly, it was.
The premise sounded great: Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a gritty supercop from the mean streets of London, is reassigned to a quaint countryside village. Based on this, I expected something along the lines of Shaun of the Dead. In that, writer / director Edgar Wright pulled off the neat trick of both faithfully recreating and parodying the typical American zombie movie simultaneously. I figured Hot Fuzz would be similarly over-the-top.
Instead, the film quickly settles into a city-mouse-country-mouse comedy of manners, more Fawlty Towers than Dirty Harry. Angel wiles away his days collaring underage drinkers, eating ice cream cones with his big-boned partner (Nick Frost), and cursing the local paper for repeatedly misspelling his name as “Angle.” When someone actually dies in the idyllic burg, Angel leaps into action, seeking clues and questioning suspects. But the townsfolk pooh-pooh his efforts, and insist that the death was nothing more than an accident. And although Angel is committed to solving the crime, he seems determined, alas, to do so via detective work and deductive reasoning, rather than to let his guns do the talking. One of Angel’s colleagues even dismisses him as “Miss Marple.” At this point, the comparison seemed apt: the film felt like a satire of PBS’s Mystery.
Which was okay, I guess. But I knew going in that Hot Fuzz was 120 minutes long. At about the 75 minute mark, I could feel my enthusiasm waning. In fact, I was a little mystified about all the good reviews the film had received.
And then, hoo-boy. Things changed gears, and how.
In some ways, Hot Fuzz reminds me of the Half His Heads Was an Orange joke, or any shaggydog story where much of the humor is derived from the overly-long punchline. And, in this case, the setup is pretty funny too–so long as you know it’s not going to occupy the full two hour running time. It doesn’t quite reach the heights of inspired insanity on display in Shaun, but it demonstrated that Wright’s first film was no fluke–and has me looking forward to whatever he and Frost pair up in next.