This Friday Night at the Movies I saw Hot Fuzz, the latest cinematic adventure from those British guys who made Shaun of the dead which is a film I love in spite of the disappointingly anglicized spelling of the main characters name. In many ways, Hot Fuzz is to adrenaline-pumped cop films like Die Hard and Point Break what Shaun was to zombie movies. That’s a simplistic assessment, but still pretty accurate as far as gauging your appreciation of the film.
Simon Pegg plays supercop Nick Angel, a stone cold bad-ass whose stellar arrest rate is making all the other London cops look bad. His bosses (one of whom includes Tim Canterbury from the original British version of the office) send him to a quiet country village in order to get him out of their hair. Everything seems peaceful in the idyllic Sandford, but Nick and his new partner (Shaun of the Dead costar Nick Frost) soon find that there’s a dark underbelly beneath the facade and the only way to save the day is to become action movie stars.
This film was good, by which I mean to say that it has a clever script and the performances were entertaining with a few special effects done just well enough. But the film operates in a weird space. It’s too faithful to the idea of cop movies (and too focused on the actual plot) to be a satire. Yet, it is too nudge-nudge-wink-wink with the references and genre tropes to be a straight action film. The result is a film that is neither parody nor homage but a thoroughly entertaining marriage of the two. Characters can quote and reference other films, but within the world of the Sandford police department it is never too obvious. I like a good parody and I used to watch and re-watch films like Hot Shots and The Naked Gun, but lately the whole stream of _____Movie tripe that Hollywood has been churning out has left me cold at best, and retching quietly at worst. A meta-fictional or parodic film should do something more than just recognize the cliches and recurring themes of a certain type of movie and explicitly state them. The best ones take them and subvert them, use them in fresh and clever ways that go beyond obvious pop culture call backs and goofy costumes (Epic Movie, I am looking in your direction). At their best like Scream and Shaun of the Dead, they can subvert a genre while still being a part of it. When this happens the satire comes across as good-natured ribbing, the more subtle the better. And that’s just what Hot Fuzz delivers.