Someone clever once wrote that it’s a rare movie which can’t benefit from having 20 minutes shaved off the running time and a helicopter explosion added. Hot Fuzz could easily lose half an hour, while at least one of the two-too-many copper shoot-outs would happily bow down to the chopper boom.
Edgar Wright’s frenzied, feature-length sketch of the mismatched-rozzer blueprint is a churning blender of gags, mugs, kinks, quirks, sneaks, nods, wink-winks, zingers and stingers that thunders along for an hour or so before revealing itself to be all set-up, no payoff. Plenty of ba-doom, not much tish.
Frustratingly, that first hour is probably the most fun you’ll have in a movie theatre this year. PC Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg, townie hotshot) and PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, village idiot) stumble into a smalltown accident/murder mystery which probably involves local supermarket spook Simon Skinner (a smarmy, Satanic Timothy Dalton).
Cue a chorus of League Of Gentlemen-style riffs on faintly sinister, rustic life (screams on the green, a gory fate at the fete, deadly digging at the garden centre, cornershop a-tremble at the prospect of more than two schoolchildren on the premises at one time).
Post-Spaced and Shaun, Pegg and Frost are so practised at the cruddy-buddy thing, they’re cocky enough to glide along on a skiddy sheen of recurring, character-based mini-jokes... Because there aren’t many crime-kicks in the sticks, the entire cop-shop shambles about, scoffing gateaux.
When the action wilts, policewoman Dirty Doris (Olivia Colman) drops in sleazy, Carry On-style sucker-punchlines. Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall are outstanding as sledgehammer-sarky Detective- Sergeants (“Wanna be a big cop in a small town? Fuck off to the model village!”)
But while Frost is, as ever, the film’s cuddly, comic soul, Pegg can’t pump much heart into his by-the-book academy swot SWAT. Shaun was his ragged urban Everyman; warm, wearied, intimate. Angel is just an extended, stiff, uppity badass parody as seen before in countless skits and Comic Strip movies.
Wright’s whiplash style hasn’t really evolved since Spaced. Clanging around the edges of a TV screen, it felt fresh and feisty. Cinema-size, the jittery energy is quickly burned up.
This straining for substance highlights the big hitch: Hot Fuzz simply doesn’t know what it is or what it wants to be. Action or comedy, cop parody or Wicker Man-style outsider horror? Despite a peppering of well-crafted set-pieces, it skitters out of its comic groove once the semi-serious drama kicks in. Perhaps sensing the stumble, Wright desperately layers on a multi-tiered conclusion...
One silly ending is fine, two is pushing it, but the strained and stodgy triple blowout proves that Pegg and Frost are, like their characters, content to enjoy the fantasy of living inside a US blockbuster - and until we lose that ironic awe and just get on with making a proper British action movie, the result is always going to feel like this: a bit of a cop-out.
The first half's a blast, but as the comedy/action/horror/parody piles up, Hot Fuzz cools down. Needs more of a short, sharp schlock.