Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Swan!

Hot Fuzz

Directed by Edgar Wright

Some years ago my faith in the ability of movie industry to create something genuinely funny was restored by the brilliant British film Shaun of the Dead. Now the same writers and director are back with a new film, Hot Fuzz, which does to cop movies what their last offering did to zombie flicks.

Simon Pegg plays a badass cop from the mean streets of London who is (for no sensical reason) transferred to a sleepy cowtown in the depths of the English countryside. Naturally his gung ho demeanour is unappreciated by the complacent, underworked local constabulary, save for his partner, played by Nick Frost, who looks up to him as an action movie come to life.

The first half of the film gains a lot of mileage from the obvious fish out of water comedy. It might be straightforward slapstick but the team's first assignment (to catch an escaped swan) had me in fits. Later on the town's dreadful production of Romeo and Juliet (an unbelievably tacky travesty sourced primarily from Baz Luhrman's movie) tops that scene, demonstrating the writer's best asset: a fine control of absurdity that keeps things subtle and understated.

Later on things get a little more serious as the plot proper is resolved. There are fewer laughs to be found here, save for the final climactic action scene which is an over the top parody of the films admired by Frost's character near the beginning (Bad Boys 2, Point Blank). It's amusing but nowhere near the standard of the first half. Shaun of the Dead had a similar problem and the two films also share a tendency to start taking themselves seriously and invest themselves in the character's dramatic arcs near the end. The partner's bonding, and the climactic dramatic scene in which the police force is rallied behind Nick Angel, felt pretty cheesy. It's a common fault of comedies (both good and bad) to attempt to have a serious emotional heart to them and it's a decision that always mystifies me. I simply cannot think of a movie that was a comedy first and foremost that actually managed to pull off a genuine romance or other emotional arc, yet the sappy ending is an obligatory setpiece for any movie of this kind. I guess the test audiences demand it. It's easy to look past it in a movie such as this one which is actually funny, but in some shitty Adam Sandler flick or tripe like Meet the Fockers it can leave the viewer writhing in their seat in embarrassment for the actors onscreen, who stand there mugging away at the camera, blissfully unaware of just how nauseating their hamhanded, saccharine, self satisfied bullshit really is.

However I do have to applaud the implied message of Hot Fuzz. For once it's nice to see a film where rather than having the good hearted, simple but wise country folk teach the arrogant, superficial city dwellers a lesson the roles are reversed, and urban drive and sophistication triumph over the conservative, petty mindset of a small town hierarchy.

Great movie, but not quite as funny as Shaun of the Dead.

2 comments:

Andrew Brown said...

Interesting you bring up an Adam Sandler film when talking about comedies that do soppy, because when you said that the only movie I can think that pulled it off was "Click" which happens to be one.

Personally, I normally dislike a movie if it has morals at all, and prefer no morals or preferably bad morals

Jon said...

I haven't seen Click, was it any good as a comedy as well? The reason I cited Adam Sandler was because the most egregious example I could think of was the unholy Anger Management, a truly dreadful mess that can only be atoned for by the messy dismemberment of Jack Nicholson.