Sunday, February 25, 2007

Hot Fuzz

(Proudly reviewing films more than a week after they came out.)

After the cult success of the Channel 4 sitcom Spaced, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and Edgar Wright were promoted to "great hopes of British cinema" after their zombie/romantic comedy Shaun of the Dead turned out to be remarkably successful and surprisingly good.

Hot Fuzz is the follow-up, again taking a well-established genre and splicing it with underwhelming bits of Britain. They say this wasn't a deliberate decision, but both films are based in large part on the joke of sticking Hollywood elements in mundane parts of Britain. Americans may need to recall that, for British viewers, Hollywood films take place almost exclusively abroad. It's not so much that we assume America is really like that; it's just that film and TV exports do so much to shape British perceptions of America that we're rarely conscious of any collision with the real world going on. We never quite believed America was real to begin with.

So Hot Fuzz takes the police buddy movie and relocates it to rural Gloucestershire. Nick Angel, an irritatingly effective policeman with an arrest rate four times higher than anyone else's, is summarily reassigned to the countryside because he's making everyone else look bad. He ends up stranded in a station full of completely useless police officers who spend their days eating cake. His partner, Danny, at least vaguely wants to be a proper police officer, but gets his ideas entirely from the movies. And there's an awful lot of suspicious things going on, which the locals appear to regard as totally normal.

It's good. Not as good as Shaun of the Dead - the genres don't mesh quite as neatly, the final couple of codas are a mistake, and the supporting characters are pretty one-dimensional compared to SotD. But it's still very good. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost have great chemistry, and Wright's comic timing is magnificent. It's inventive, it's clever, and it's beautifully structured, setting up jokes a good hour before they pay off, and yanking them back in when you'd almost forgotten about them.

Homegrown comedy seems to be undergoing a resurgence. I can remember when articles about the UK film industry generally just lamented the fact that it was stone dead. After that, we had a period when Four Weddings and a Funeral was very popular, but people felt obliged to point out that when you looked at the funding, it wasn't really British. But Hot Fuzz is definitely British, even though it clearly has one eye on export.

And the trailer reel included both Mitchell & Webb's Magicians - I'd have thought they were more TV performers, but you never know - and the admittedly dreadful-sounding I Want Candy. Apparently it's an attempt to do a British equivalent of American Pie, although the presence of Carmen Electra is hardly encouraging. Still, at least you can say the domestic film industry exists in some fairly substantial way. That hasn't really been true in a while.