Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Wright/Pegg/Frost team is still 'hot'

““Hot Fuzz” is a very funny film. It is also unfortunately another example of a film falling victim to poor marketing. Commercials for the DVD focus on the frenzied humor of the film’s final 30 minutes, implying that the entire film features the same fast paced, in your face humor. It doesn’t. The slow build and dead pan humor of the majority of the film may turn off viewers hoping for the nonstop irreverence of the trailer.

“Hot Fuzz” is writer/director Edgar Wright, co-writer/star Simon Pegg and co-lead Nick Frost’s follow up to the zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead.” As a creative team they are hard to beat when it comes to comedy that is a balanced mixture of smart and stupid with subtle and outrageous.

Their latest film takes on the action buddy comedy. In many ways it is bigger and harder target to lampoon than the zombie genre. There’s a danger in satirizing films that are already funny as has been proven in the latest crop of parody films such as “Date Movie” and “Epic Movie.” If the new film isn’t funnier than the original subject matter it renders itself useless.

Wright and Pegg don’t follow the current parody trend of directly lifting and altering scenes from recent films. Instead, much like Mel Brooks best films, “Hot Fuzz” features an original story that reduces all the worst aspects of the action comedy genre to a punch line.

The film’s set-up is inspired. Hot shot London cop Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is transferred to small town England, not because he’s reckless, but rather he does his job too well and he is making his colleagues (played by top Brit comedic actors Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy) look bad.

Angel is saddled with the town drunk Danny (Frost) as his partner in a town with seemingly no crime. Of course that isn’t the case and soon it becomes clear that a series of “accidents” are really a murder conspiracy. Naturally – as genre convention dictates – no one believes Angel even when it is absolutely ludicrous not to. The film mines some of its best humor from Angel’s fellow officers’ – including the wonderfully aloof Jim Broadbent – complete inability to listen to reason.

The middle section of the film actually plays more like a comedic homage to mystery thrillers a long the lines of “The Omen” and “The Wicker Man.” The film even features Edward Woodward the star of the original “Wicker Man.”

Of the film’s supporting cast ex-Bond Timothy Dalton is the easy stand out. It is a wonderfully goofy performance and it is clear Dalton is having fun and letting loose. Wright and Pegg give Dalton some of the best dialogue – cryptic exchanges that everyone except Angel ignores – that Dalton delivers with smirky glee.

As was true with “Shaun,” Pegg and Frost have great chemistry together. Pegg as the by the book cop gives a nearly flawless comedic performance and Frost’s loyal lap dog is the perfect balance. The way their dynamic gently mocks the male bonding of the action genre is one of the film’s best running gags.

Danny’s knowledge of being a cop comes from the very films “Hot Fuzz” is ultimately taking the piss out of. Angel insists the life of a cop is nothing like it is portrayed in movies. That is until the film becomes exactly like one of those films in a blaze of uproarious glory.

Jerry Bruckheimer productions such as “Bad Boys 2” are the films main target in the climatic conclusion and Wright gets all the over-the-top action right with Angel and Danny having to take on the whole town.

“Hot Fuzz” is long and takes it time, but in a way that is a part of the satire as Bruckheimer productions are notoriously bloated. The drawn out pacing of the film may not work for everyone, but makes the spectacular finale all the sweeter.

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