In 2004 writer/ director Edgar Wright and writer/actor Simon Pegg delightfully surprised audiences with Shaun Of The Dead. What made Shaun of the Dead work so well is that the story was a romantic comedy set against the background of a zombie uprising. In much the same way, Hot Fuzz is another such odd juxtapositioning of genres. With its high octane action moments set against a mystery in a small English village, Hot Fuzz feels like an Agatha Christie novel filtered through a weird hybrid of the sensibilities of action directors Richard Donner and Michael Bay.
London police officer Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is the best there is. So much so that his arrest record is 400% better than the rest of the force and it is making them look bad. Angel soon finds himself transferred out to the sleepy, countryside village of Sandford. Although the village hasn’t had a murder in over 20 years, Angel finds the inordinate amount of accidental deaths in the village to be more than a bit suspicious. When he voices his suspicions to his fellow officers, he’s laughed at. But further investigation shows that Angel is not only right, but the mystery is even stranger than he could imagine.
Pegg and Wright have peppered their script with moments that will be familiar to longtime fans of action films. However, they are careful not to overplay the moment and wink at the audience over how clever they are. If anything, the movie takes those moments and subverts them. One moment lifted from the Lethal Weapon series, complete with reminiscent score music, plays out with a definite comedic twist. This approach keeps the movie from being a simple parody of genre conventions, but instead turns them into comedic homages. Pegg and Wright also acknowledge crime dramas as well, where the admonishment “Forget it Nicholas. It’s Sandford.” echoes Chinatown’s closing line.
The performances here are all top notch. Pegg, as the tough-as-nails Angel, is miles away from his slacker character in Shaun Of The Dead. Nick Frost handles some nice emotional moments as Nick’s partner who only joined the force out of a feeling of familial obligation to his father. The smart script has attracted some cream de la cream British acting talent including Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, Paddy Considine and Jim Broadbent. Everyone remembers that the comedy in the film stems of their characters’ reactions to the situations and are careful to keep their roles from becoming caricatures. The closest anyone comes to being over the top is Timothy Dalton as the slimy manager of the local grocery store. Dalton clearly relishes the role and he hasn’t been as fun to watch on screen since his villainous turn in 1991’s The Rocketeer.