Action movies, like any other genre driven movies, are constantly judged by the critics like gymnastics performances – the score isn’t bettered by outstanding moments but rather reduced with the tallying of platitudes and poorly-crafted stupidities. But with the 21st-century and the fanboys’ rise to pop-cultural power, Hollywood has seen an increase in tongue-in-cheek, highly self-aware filmmaking that flies at the frustrated faces of such film snobs who have been made to accept the marriage of highbrow and lowbrow. These writers and directors, like Hot Fuzz’s director/co-writer Edgar Wright and actor/co-writer Simons Pegg, have fashioned their own standards to create art by and, along with their contemporaries like Robert Rodriguez and Kevin Smith (and yes, to beat a dead horse, Quentin Tarantino as well) helped give birth to this niche genre: raucous, stupid, ridiculous movies that are really intelligent and artistically honed movies in disguise.
Hot Fuzz is the story of overachieving police officer Nicholas Angel (Pegg) who, when the higher-ups determine that they don’t want him overshadowing the rest of London’s cops, is shipped off to be Sergeant in the pleasantly bucolic village of Sandford. Whilst saddled with Police Chief Butterman’s (Jim Broadbent) American action-flick obsessed son Danny (Nick Frost) as a partner, Angel finds it hard to adjust zealous sense of justice in a place where he has little else to do than snag uncooperative shoplifters and wrangle runaway swans. But after a number of bizarrely gruesome accidents start to occur, Angel’s criminal radar goes haywire over suspicions of foul-play and murder – but the question is: Are Angel’s worries justified or is he just in want of the excitement that he once had as a metropolitan lawman?
For the diehard cinephile, there are few things more satisfying than filmmakers who are happily and unapologetically willing to dig with both hands into B-movie cinema to find the perfect elements to make a great and purely fun movie. In the DVD commentary for Hot Fuzz, Wright and Pegg unabashedly discuss their thorough reading of Roger Ebert’s The Bigger Little Book of Hollywood Clichés and their taking of notes to make sure they could include as many action movie truisms as possible. You can see the passion for the work of famed action directors like Michael Bay and Martin Scorsese everywhere – there’s so much to look at, its almost like a trivia game of Spot the Reference. I particularly love the scenes of filling out paperwork photographed with the aggressive look of a hand-crank camera as a hyper-caffeinated action montage like it was stolen from the mind of Tony Scott. And yet, looking it at Hot Fuzz as a unique film it still has abounding merits. Its still hilarious and thrilling, even if some of the referential British humor is lost on American viewers. Its so sharp and punchy, taking straight off from the previous Wright/Pegg collaboration Shaun of the Dead. These guys are fearless with their humor and action (who knew kicking an old lady in the face is actually so, so, so funny?) and it pays off. Nick Frost’s Danny spends a great deal of the film longing to find action to measure up to iconic films like Point Break and Bad Boys 2 – I almost dare not say it, but Hot Fuzz might very well be better than the films it worships. At the very least, they are even on the playing field.