Shtick to Your Guns: Hot Fuzz?s jokes blast hapless cops.
Shtick to Your Guns: Hot Fuzz?s jokes blast hapless cops.

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In Hot Fuzz’s fictional town of Sandford, England, the local bobbies spend a lot of time eating cake. Their evidence room is empty. A precinct swear jar keeps the boys from getting too blue. The daily grind, in other words, is more like a nice frappé. When a hotshot officer from London joins their force, a man approaches the cop with a confession. “I’m a slasher, and I must be stopped,” he warns. “My discounts are criminal!”

That’s the Mayberry existence awaiting Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), who’s transferred to the boonies because he protects and serves like there’s no tomorrow, and his colleagues are tired of being shown up. Angel cracks down on Sandford the night he arrives, unable to enjoy his nonalcoholic beverage at the neighborhood pub because booze is keeping minors up past their bedtimes. He also catches a sloppy drunk trying to drive himself home. Angel throws the sot in the tank, only to discover that the man is Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the son of Sandford’s head inspector and Angel’s new partner. (“Have you ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air?” Danny asks, fascinated by the experienced newcomer.) Sandford, Inspector Butterman (Jim Broadbent) tells Angel, is statistically the safest place in the country, so they don’t sweat the small stuff.

Of course, there’s more going on in Sandford than it appears. Same goes for the movie itself. Hot Fuzz was written and directed by Edgar Wright (and co-written by Pegg), the Shaun of the Dead and Spaced director who’s not exactly known for the inevitable explosions that an accurate buddy-cop lampoon would require. Rest assured, things do blow up, but Wright doesn’t abandon his fascination with bumps in the night. As often as films such as Bad Boys, Point Break, and Lethal Weapon are referenced—both in the dialogue and visually—Hot Fuzz weaves a terrific horror vibe throughout: There are ominous storms and dead-eyed stares, a cloak-wrapped villain, and spookily spoken dialogue such as a hotel caretaker’s “Check in? But you’ve always been here…”—a nice nod to The Shining. But not even an Omen-esque death nor shady characters can convince the Sandford squad that something untoward’s afoot. “Why’s that guy wearing a hood?” Angel asks Danny as a test during a patrol. Danny doesn’t hesitate: “Because he’s fuck-ugly!”

Like the excellent Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz has a jokes-per-scene ratio that rivals Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker’s best. The gags are typical Brit wit, both silly and sharp—viewers won’t need special knowledge to laugh at an ancient, incomprehensible cop, but anyone well-versed in action movies and slashers (and Shaun) will go nuts catching deferential winks to the classics. And Pegg and Frost’s pairing is once again inspired: While Pegg scowls and deadpans as the straight man, Frost is proving to be the type of comedian who practically needs only to show up to get a laugh. Angel and Danny bond in that homoerotic Riggs-and-Murtaugh way as they dig up Sandford’s secrets and, as required in such scripts, “bust this thing wide open.” With Hot Fuzz, Wright and his team have taken their unique style and done the same.