I watch a lot of American Dad. I think it’s because, when my day is over and I’m home from work, I don’t want to do any more writing. I just want to sit down, turn off my brain, and watch some stupid cartoons. And that’s what American Dad, along with every other show backed by Seth MacFarlane, is about: turning off your brain to watch something that will almost certainly make you dumber. Maybe it’s because it’s American. (Probably not.) Maybe it’s because it’s a cartoon. (But that’s about 50-50 odds.) Maybe it’s because it’s MacFarlane. (Almost certainly. You never see these problems with Matt Groening.)
And I have yet to see these problems with British comedy.
There are more than a few people who wonder why I love the Brits so much. They drink a lot of tea. They have silly accents. They produce some of the world’s finest writing and entertainment. And they have a queen, who is just adorable and who I want to call Nanna Lizzie, like, just so bad. You don’t even know. (As I’m Canadian, I could probably be beheaded for that, so I really hope she’s not one of our readers. On the off chance she is, hello, ma’am. I love your hats. Quite fetching.)
I love Monty Python. I think Catherine Tate is a national treasure. And I think Peter Capaldi will be—ahh, but it’s not time for that, is it? The point is, I like British comedy. But for some reason, it’s always easiest to shut down and watch something mindless rather than taking the time to watch something that’ll make me smarter. And maybe that’s why it took me so long to finally sit down and watch Hot Fuzz.
Policeman Officer Nicholas Angel is the best in London at what he does, which is unusual in a parody film. He is promoted to Sergeant and relocated to the small town of Ass-End-of-Nowhere, where the residents are all getting geared up for the upcoming “Village of the Year” contest. But they’re dealing with several blights on their streets, namely a living statue and a gaggle of students wearing hoodies. Nicholas struggles to adjust to small-town life, where his most exciting pursuit is of a renegade swan.
But something is very off about this town. The people are overly pleasant, even when a string of brutal murders are committed by a cloaked and hooded figure—and are written off by the townspeople as nasty accidents. As Nicholas tries to uncover a diabolical conspiracy, his life is endangered in his pursuit of justice, and he is nearly killed by the council of old people who are trying to maintain the town’s perfection.
Turns out all the old people, including the chief of police, own the cloak-and-hood costume, which enables them to commit the murders as a single character while maintaining perfect alibis. They’ve been killing people for no reason (seriously, they decapitate a woman because her laugh is annoying) to keep Ass-End-of-Nowhere top of the heap. Nicholas leaves town, but he returns with a vengeance, raids the evidence locker (sweetie, how do you even carry that many guns), and steals a horse so he can serve the townspeople his own unique brand of “sh*t just got real” justice.
He then proceeds to shoot up the entire damn village. Seriously, if you ever wanted to see a quaint British town shot to hell, this is the movie for you. (The thought running through my mind at this point was, “This CANNOT be legal.”) He brings the entire police force, which has been colossally unhelpful up to this point, around to his side, and they join him in shooting up just absolutely everything.
The old people are either killed or arrested, the swan is caught, and Nicholas is offered the chance to move back to London. He declines, and shortly after the village doctor comes into the station to kill Nicholas, ends up shooting his partner, and blows up the entire damn building (because someone thought it would be a good idea to keep a sea mine in an evidence locker). But don’t worry; everyone lives to fight small-town crime another day, Nicholas is made the new chief of police, and even hippies messing with the rubbish bins at the supermarket is an opportunity for badassery.
Nicholas Angel is played by the always-hilarious Simon Pegg, but his character in this film was that of the straight man. For the majority of the film he fails to see the humour in anything; he doesn’t drink, he’s married to his job (which resulted in the loss of his girlfriend), his greatest delight is in taking care of his peace lily (not a euphemism), and he never, ever shuts off—until he starts spending time with his partner.
Nicholas’s partner Danny (Nick Frost), on the other hand, is not particularly bright and is the loosest guy in the film. (Not in the sexy way.) Nicholas first meets him when he’s drunk off his ass in the pub, and Danny nearly runs him over in his car. He loves movies and cop tropes, which he references constantly (meta), and he’s absolutely in awe of Nicholas, who represents something big, dangerous, and exciting in his eyes. Danny also has an enormous movie collection, which is also the only thing in his house he’s unpacked in the years he’s lived there and which shows his priorities beautifully. He encourages Nicholas to loosen up, which helps to develop the sense of “justice by any means” that comes out by the end of the movie.
The rest of the cast is an uncomplicated but solid ensemble, featuring such brilliant and renowned actors as Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Argus Filch from Harry Potter, and that guy who played the Hound in Game of Thrones. (“Welcome to England. We have six actors.”) They’re all either murdered or murderers, and they’re armed with walkie talkies and easily concealed weapons (even the priest. Like seriously). And can we just talk about the fact that Martin Freeman shows up at the beginning and end? It wasn’t nearly enough Martin, but it was a delightful surprise nonetheless.
One of the greatest things about this movie was its classic British comedy, which tends to be subtler than American comedy, and half the time something’s only funny because it’s stated in the British vernacular, but that’s okay, because it’s still hilarious. Even just something like Nicholas making a rude hand gesture and saying, “Jog on,” made me laugh so hard I nearly broke a rib.
The humour is shown in things like a hotel room, which is labelled “Castle Suite” and is, in fact, a dive. It’s shown in a full pub that’s completely empty once Nicholas has ousted the underage drinkers. It’s shown in Nicholas collecting a bunch of troublemakers on the way to the station, even though he doesn’t know where it is. It’s shown in the tour of the police station, where there’s a hedgehog in the riot room and nothing at all in the evidence locker. It’s shown in the swear box, which is labelled with naughty words and their costs, and “bastard” and “f*ck” are censored while “sh*t” and the c-word aren’t. It’s shown when Nicholas receives a call about a murder in the middle of the night and confusedly says, “Decaffeinated?” before the shot cuts to a couple of decapitated heads lying in the middle of the road.
It’s shown when Nicholas jumps a series of garden fences and Danny just plows right through them. It’s shown when they walk into Filch’s shed and see just a ridiculous amount of guns, shown in a rapid-fire fashion over the space of about thirty seconds to illustrate just how many there actually are. (Plus a sea mine.) It’s shown when Danny is okay with Nicholas never having seen “Lethal Weapon” or “Die Hard,” but considers it unacceptable that he’s never seen “Bad Boys II.” It’s shown when the adjudicators are standing in the middle of the town after the cop cars have just whizzed by them, and even though you don’t see a large shot of the town, you know exactly what they’re seeing, and you know perfectly well how this “Village of the Year” contest is going to work out for Ass-End-of-Nowhere.
And the humour helped to balance out what, in my mind, was a really serious amount of gore and violence. (Don’t judge me; I had nightmares after Mars Attacks.) Two people were decapitated, as previously mentioned. The newspaper writer suddenly had a massive stone spike where his head should have been. The old people made a mass grave full of mildly offensive people, including the living statue, who’s frozen in a look of horror. An old lady was stabbed in the throat with gardening shears. One guy impaled his f*cking chin on the steeple of a model church, and he didn’t even die. So that’s probably why, when I knew Nicholas was going to do some damage and the adjudicators were coming that day, I thought, “He should totally arrange the mass grave corpses all over town to be found by the adjudicators.” I then looked askance at myself and edged over to the other side of the couch, away from such craziness.
One of the cool things I noticed about Hot Fuzz was the way some of the shots were spliced together in a rapid-fire fashion. I don’t know if I’d ever seen it before, but it helped to communicate motion and the passage of time quickly, which helped maintain a constant rising action without too many slow periods. And that is the extent of things I know about filmmaking.
But I watch and read a lot of mysteries, and I know the formula. One guy presents himself as the obvious villain right off the start. In this case, it’s Skinner (Timothy Dalton), who jogs alongside Nicholas and says he needs to be arrested, as he’s a slasher—“a slasher of prices!” And because he was so obviously presented, I knew it couldn’t be him. Even when he was popping up at crime scenes all over the place, making creepy, cryptic comments before and after the murders, I knew it wouldn’t be him, because the bad guy always shows up at the end of the film as someone who appeared innocent all along but has been right under our noses the whole time.
So I started asking myself who the most likely suspect would be, and I settled on the head of the neighbourhood watch (or whatever he’s head of—the guy with the video screens). He was concerned about how the town looked, I thought; I bet that’s it. Which is why I was so surprised when it turned out that I was both right and wrong, and that the entire neighbourhood council was in on it. Like I said, I read and watch a lot of mysteries, so I’m not often surprised by “whodunnit” stories. But it’s a very nice thing to feel surprised every now and then, and I appreciated it more than I expected.
This is the story of a “community that cares.” From something as simple and seemingly harmless as allowing teenagers to drink in the pub so they’ll stay out of trouble to something as horrific as killing people because their actions will reflect badly on the town (one guy had an eyesore of a house and another guy was having an affair with annoying-laugh girl), every action undertaken by the villagers was “for the greater good.” (Which was an unnerving statement, given that several of the actors in Hot Fuzz also appeared in the Harry Potter series. [Nurmengard. It is an obscure reference that you should have gotten.])
Nicholas, on the other hand, stands for more than “the greater good,” especially as that’s a statement that only seems to apply to the town itself. He stands for justice, no matter what form it may take, and while he will never hurt the innocent, you’d best stand clear when sh*t gets real. And that’s probably why I love this movie so much; even though it’s a parody, it does so with class and poise and British humour, and it doesn’t make you feel dumber for watching it. It’s not The Other Guys. It’s not Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It’s Hot Fuzz, and it’s on track to becoming one of my favourite movies of all time.
Final Grade: A+
- The awful actress is Hattie from Ella Enchanted! Nothing significant there; I just felt like pointing it out.
- The film’s music supervisor is named Nick Angel. There probably is some significance there, actually.
- When they were fighting in the model village, it totally reminded me of a Kaiju and a Jaeger fighting in Pacific Rim.
- “I may not be a man of God, Reverend, but I know right and I know wrong and I have the good grace to know which is which.” “Oh, f*ck off, grasshopper.”
- “Fascist.” “Hag.” That is all.
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