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Movies: Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz was not the movie I'd hoped it would be.

And then, suddenly, it was.

The premise sounded great: Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a gritty supercop from the mean streets of London, is reassigned to a quaint countryside village. Based on this, I expected something along the lines of Shaun of the Dead. In that, writer / director Edgar Wright pulled off the neat trick of both faithfully recreating and parodying the typical American zombie movie simultaneously. I figured Hot Fuzz would be similarly over-the-top.

Instead, the film quickly settles into a city-mouse-country-mouse comedy of manners, more Fawlty Towers than Dirty Harry. Angel wiles away his days collaring underage drinkers, eating ice cream cones with his big-boned partner (Nick Frost), and cursing the local paper for repeatedly misspelling his name as "Angle." When someone actually dies in the idyllic burg, Angel leaps into action, seeking clues and questioning suspects. But the townsfolk pooh-pooh his efforts, and insist that the death was nothing more than an accident. And although Angel is committed to solving the crime, he seems determined, alas, to do so via detective work and deductive reasoning, rather than to let his guns do the talking. One of Angel's colleagues even dismisses him as "Miss Marple." At this point, the comparison seemed apt: the film felt like a satire of PBS's Mystery.

Which was okay, I guess. But I knew going in that Hot Fuzz was 120 minutes long. At about the 75 minute mark, I could feel my enthusiasm waning. In fact, I was a little mystified about all the good reviews the film had received.

And then, hoo-boy. Things changed gears, and how.

In some ways, Hot Fuzz reminds me of the Half His Heads Was an Orange joke, or any shaggydog story where much of the humor is derived from the overly-long punchline. And, in this case, the setup is pretty funny too--so long as you know it's not going to occupy the full two hour running time. It doesn't quite reach the heights of inspired insanity on display in Shaun, but it demonstrated that Wright's first film was no fluke--and has me looking forward to whatever he and Frost pair up in next.

Posted on June 04, 2007 to Movies


It's been a while since I saw it, but I remember SotD having the same kind of slow set-up, where you think at the beginning that it's going to be a totally different kind of movie than it is at the end. It's like you get two movies for the price of one, and you don't feel cheated by either.

Posted by: srah on June 4, 2007 4:46 PM

Man are you right, I am glad I am cheap or I would have walked out of the movie and missed the rest.


Posted by: Becca on June 4, 2007 5:25 PM

I agree with your point about the movie taking a long time to get to its payoff, but one thing that really bothered me: the slam-bang, whoosh! editing. It gave me a headache: every scene change had to happen with an extraneous noise, every montage had to be delivered like an MTV video without music. Action sequences were edited to a state of near-incoherence. It gave me a headache. Shaun was nothing like that. Maybe it was part of the joke, that being the standard presentational method of the shoot-em-up cop movies it parodies, but it really annoyed me.

Posted by: Bill on June 4, 2007 5:33 PM

I find it funny how many people have this reaction to Hot Fuzz - I actually found it more involving than SotD, as it spent more time fleshing out a larger cast of characters and their environs, while Sean tended to rely more on quickly sketched archetypes in stereotypical situations. The relationship between the 2 main characters in Hot Fuzz was much better drawn in HF, for example.

Guess this is just a matter of preference; I also enjoy long, boring, glacially paced movies as long as there's a good dramatic/comedic/whateveriffic payoff (Barry Lyndon, etc.)

Posted by: jdbo on June 4, 2007 6:01 PM

I felt kind of the same way. My comment walking out, though, was I bet it'd be even funnier the second time through, when you can see the punch line building.

Sort of like Rosemary's Baby is much creepier the second time through, because you know *exactly* what's going on.

Posted by: Jenna on June 4, 2007 6:15 PM

I simply don't get the Half my Head is an Orange Joke. I feel so ashamed.

Posted by: Candy on June 5, 2007 6:30 AM

They're making another apparently, calling them all the "cornetto triology" or something similar.

Posted by: Mark on June 5, 2007 8:28 AM

I can understand your feeling that the beginning of Hot Fuzz is slow. But if you're an avid PBS viewer, like me, there are lots of wonderful small moments that lovingly parody Mystery, especially Prime Suspect (that's my impression, anyway). Then when it moves into balls-to-the-wall Hollywood action satire it makes those earlier scenes all come together, like Detective Superintendent Jane Tennison and a glass of whiskey.

"Big boned" is a nice way to describe Nick Frost.

Posted by: Rebecca on June 5, 2007 9:25 AM

I'm with Rebecca. I'm not an avid PBS viewer, but I thought the movie worked well as a sort of parody of multiple movie styles, and that's what really got me. It worked as a buddy cop movie, as a mystery, as a buddy-flick, as an action movie... and I never had any doubt they would get to the hi-jinks.

Posted by: Ondioline on June 5, 2007 10:49 AM

I definitely don't need those two hours of my life back.

The beginning is slow, but the dips into absurdity make that fun, too. What's so special about Angel's plant, fercryinoutloud?

Timothy Dalton as the villain was a nice touch.

Posted by: ben on June 5, 2007 10:51 AM

If you liked that...you should check out the tv show they all did together *before* Shaun of the Dead. It's called Spaced, and it's fantastic. In my opinion, it's better than the movies, of which I am a big fan. And being only twelve episodes long, Spaced is easy to digest (the Brits do know how to do tv).

Oh, and I actually preferred the beginning of Hot Fuzz to the ending, though I liked it all.

Posted by: Nathan on June 5, 2007 11:20 AM

I am also a viewer of British Mysteries-- some Morse, Cracker, Foyle's War, a little Prime Suspect, a little Dalziel & Pascoe, and loads of Poirot and Miss Marple. The right elements are there, especially to the part where everyone doubt's Ms. Marple because she's obviously a daffy old woman and couldn't possibly be the super-crimefighter that she really is. (She is also, as far as I can tell, the only amateur detective who doesn't have a regular profession.)

I liked the build up, I really laughed at the action-movie bonding between Pegg's and Frost's characters, and I loved the "League of Gentlemen"-esque twist of the town council.

Maybe I'm getting old, but the jump-cuts did get beyond ridiculous, even though I could spot a few forged directorial signatures in there. I saw it with my Dad, who likes a good action movie, but he can't watch the quick-takes at all. I don't know why the cuts have to get closer and closer together; sometime between "The Bourne Identity," which had some awesome fight scenes featuring the usual 6-8 actions before a cut, to "The Bourne Conspiracy," which had fight scenes with more cuts than punches (new director, yes, but new action film fad as well) this sort of thing came about. Even the opening fight in Spiderman 3 is at times unwatchable because of its pace of cutting.

Posted by: LAN3 on June 5, 2007 11:40 AM

I'm with Candy. I don't get the half a head is an orange joke. At all.

Posted by: Tamara on June 5, 2007 3:26 PM

I loved Hot Fuzz, going to see it again tonight. Here's another joke of the "half my head is an orange" ilk:

A kangaroo walks into a clothing store. It's nearly closing time, so the clerk waits a bit impatiently while the kangaroo goes through the racks and picks out a couple of paisley shirts.

The kangaroo brings them up, the clerk rings them up and says, "That'll be $200, please". The kangaroo gets his wallet out of his pouch and pays up.

The clerk can no longer contain himself and remarks, "We don't get many kangaroos in here."

To which the kangaroo replies, "That's funny, you have a great selection of paisley."

Posted by: Doctor Jay on June 5, 2007 3:43 PM

LAN3, didja know there's a new Foyle's War coming up later of the month?


Yippy. Skippy.

Posted by: Rebecca on June 5, 2007 4:50 PM

Heh. Pardon my unfamiliarity with the Queen's English.

Posted by: Rebecca on June 5, 2007 4:51 PM

So where's the punchline for the Bush Administration? We've been waiting 7 years. When's the pay off?

Hopefully it involves Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rice, and the rest of the gang fighting their weight in rabid homosexual ferrets.

Posted by: Karl on June 5, 2007 8:29 PM

Hopefully it involves Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rice, and the rest of the gang fighting their weight in rabid homosexual ferrets.
....in orange jumpsuits!

Posted by: fan on June 6, 2007 8:52 AM

The "orange for a head" joke nearly caused my husband to suffer a fatal humor aneurysm when it was told around a dinner table in a ski lodge. I personally did not laugh. He, on the other hand was unable to finish his main course OR desert.

Posted by: galetea on June 6, 2007 9:21 AM

The "orange for a head" joke is an anti-joke. You're waiting for some elaborate explanation, some pun to explain went wrong. But nothing went wrong, the guy just asked for half his head to be an orange, but there is so much build up you're waiting for some huge punch line.

A man walks into a bar. Should have ducked.

Posted by: Caleb on June 6, 2007 1:09 PM

I know the half an orange for his head joke as the half a banana for his head joke.

I giggled.

Also: A fish swims up a river and hits the wall. Dam.

Posted by: Mark on June 6, 2007 3:50 PM

My hubby has watched Hot Fuzz five times now, his buddy isn't far behind.

This is like porn for ex military! I guess there are tons of inside jokes about law enforcement that aren't obvious to everyone. They just love that movie.

Posted by: Kkins on June 6, 2007 8:58 PM

My guess is you can't really see the true hilarity of this film unless you've lived in a small British village.

The setup seemed slow to everyone I know who grew up in a city or outside the UK, but it's thick with cutting parodies of village life. I grew up in a small Welsh village where the policemen were half-asleep and everyone feared the tounge of the residents' committee; where everyone (regardless of age) drank in the local pub and owning a hoodie marked one out as a semi-feral outcast. Trust me, if you'd grown up in rural Britain you'd love the beginning even more than the end!

Oh, and I'll second the suggestion to watch Spaced if you possibly can. I wouldn't say you should be willing to kill for a copy, but you might want to consider some light maiming. Also see Bill Bailey's "Black Books".

Posted by: Bugs on June 13, 2007 5:54 PM