Monday, September 20, 2010

Hot Buttered Fuzz

Although it's billed as a parody of the supercop genre, there's a secret agenda at work in Hot Fuzz (2007), Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg's follow up to their cult hit, Shaun of the Dead. The giveaway is an actor tucked in among the various vaguely familiar English character actors who inhabit the film's sleepy country village. Simon Pegg's supercop has been consigned here for making his fellow officers look bad, where he encounters local populace that includes Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Billie Whitlaw, Bill Nighy, Edward Woodward, Paul Freeman, and Paddy Considine, among others.

Ever the meta-filmmaker, Wright name checks his main points of reference in-movie, with Point Break and Bad Boys II making appearances, but this is really a horror movie send-up in disguise. The film even tells you this early on when Dalton's character, the weasley grocer Simon Skinner tells Simon Pegg's character that he needs to be locked up as a "slasher." Sure enough, there's a mad slasher about, who decapitates a lawyer and his mistress, blows up a developer and his awful McMansion, crushes a nosy reporter with a piece of a flying buttress, and takes out the local florist with a pair of garden shears. The murders are more sanguinary than you might expect from a comedy, but maybe they aren't too far outside the tradition of British comedy; they recall Monty Python and their occasional jabs at Sam Peckinpah, actually. Horror and humor go hand in hand, as Wright and Pegg well know.

It's not hard to imagine a white board in the production office for this movie, on which there's a list of cliché action movie tropes from cop movies without number. Wright owns up to using Roger Ebert's Big Little Movie Dictionary for just such a purpose. Maybe because this is British and very twee countryside British to boot, the clichés don't read as well as they should. Maybe that's why the film leans more heavily on horror tropes than on cop movie tropes. Mind you, they're there. Just look at this shot of Simon Pegg going all Starsky and Hutch:

The filmmakers certainly port over the gun fetish of American action movies (including, improbably, a sea mine). When the bullets start flying at the end of the movie, it comes into its own as a cop parody. I'm kind of amused that no one actually gets killed in the fireworks at the end (the movie's not shy about racking up a ghastly body count otherwise). But then, it doesn't really spare the main baddie. His fate is positively wince-inducing.

It's entirely possible that Wright is too distinctive a visual stylist to be an effective parodist along these lines. Oh, his movies are funny, sure, but they are manifestly his movies, and tend to sever the umbilical between his source material and what ends up on screen. This happened in Shaun of the Dead, too. That's not a complaint, really, because it does tend to make Wright's movies more genuinely surprising, if only for the visual panache and the delirious invention of his editing schemes. The man knows how to put together a movie.

1 comment:

Jaye Schmus said...

I love this movie! It's one of the few comedic films I've been able to sit all the way through in recent years. It's full of all sorts of shout-outs to various genres and directors. The soundtrack is cool, too.