I foolishly waited all year to see this film. Now, it is literally the end of the year and I just manage to sneak it in.
The American police film was in desperate need of having the piss taken out of it. I’m glad the English stepped in. English humor, the kind many Americans don’t get, holds a stiff upper lip. Its satire cuts close to the bone. It goes for blood. America’s goes for the groin.
Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg are making quite a name for themselves by upending American movie tropes. Where Shaun of the Dead felt too infatuated with zombie films to make a serious critique of their cliches, Hot Fuzz has no qualms about attacking the heart of a genre fattened by clownish platitudes.
From the kinetic editing to the homosexual undertones in many cops and robbers flicks, the duo of Wright and Pegg strike with a near pitch perfect impression of the films they are skewering. Good satire does this. It comes so close to the original that it can nearly fool you. Then, it goes just a step to far, it flinches, it winks, and it lets you in on the joke?
It should be said that Hot Fuzz looks to not only sen-up American action films, but films about the English countryside as well. This is perhaps the film’s biggest saving grace. Anyone familiar this brand of film, often a favorite of the PBS and art house crowd, will laugh at the way Pegg and Wright construct an idle hamlet populated by just the sort of eccentric Brits that make Hugh Grant look charming. Of considerable note are Rafe Spall and Paddy Considine, two perfectly casted wankers with all the smarmy charm of David Thewlis at his nastiest.
Placing the big city cop in the provincial English town makes for a great fish out of water story, but what can be done about a genre that itself is already laughable. The conventions of the modern action film are no doubt kinetically energizing, but they are thoughtless. The second one stops to think about an action film it almost becomes farcical. All those guns, all those bullets, all the slow motion, all that destruction, all the convoluted plot lines full of twists and surprises, the coyish toying with emotions and all of it topped off with a cheeseball pun slyly delivered from the hero’s lips. In and of itself the American action film is a joke. Perhaps this is why the last few minutes of Hot Fuzz feel less rewarding than the whole rest of the film.
By the end, a joke about a joke grows tiresome. I find most action films build not towards a grand conclusion (aka fight scene), but to a huge let down. In more recent times it is a let down that just won’t let go as filmmakers throw added twist upon twist to their film, proving that enough is never enough. The ending to Hot Fuzz drags. It also spreads its aim a bit far as it suddenly starts to incorporate parodies of Westerns. Trying to tackle too many targets in one comedy has been the fault of the never-ending string of bad American satires like Scary Movie, Epic Movie, et al. By the end of Hot Fuzz is hard to tell if this is because it continues to mimic the target or if it had fallen victim to that which it looked to ridicule. As Nitchze said, becareful when you go chasing monsters you’d best be careful not to become one yourself.