Last night, ten days ahead of general release, I was lucky enough to see Simon Pegg, Edgar Wright and Nick Frost's latest masterpiece, Hot Fuzz. I haven't really managed to keep abreast of the Hot Fuzz pre-release news, despite being on their mailing list (god knows how far down in my inbox those emails got buried), and I hadn't built up any sort of sense of excitement about the film. To suddenly discover that release is imminent felt a bit odd. I mean, it's only just over a year ago that it got the green light, and those 13 months seem to have disappeared rather too quickly for my liking. In fact, I'm so not on top of things right now, I wouldn't have got tickets at all if James Cox hadn't told me as soon as they became available.
SPOILERS: I'm not sure how many real spoilers I have in this post. It's hard to talk about without some spoilage, so if you're spoiler-sensitive, don't read on.
All that by the by, Kevin and I met up with James last night at the Finchley Road cinema and prepared to enjoy the preview of a film that we thought might be, well, quite good. After all, I quite liked Shaun of the Dead, so I had faith that Pegg, Wright and Frost might just come up with something that could potentially provide a laugh or two. But I really wasn't prepared for Hot Fuzz.
Pegg and Wright have said that their preparation for writing this movie was to sit down with all the cop shows and movies they could lay their hands on, soak up all the references and cliches and then spit them back out in that warped Spaced way. OK, so they didn't use exactly those words, but that's what they did, and they did it in spades. And lo, tis wonderful.
So, the plot basics. Over-achieving city-boy Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is sent to the country to work with wet-behind-the-ears PC Danny Butterman (Frost) and hates every second of it. Angel's colleagues in London are jealous of his overachievement, and his new colleagues in Somerset hate his London ways and the fact that 'e ain't from rown these parrts. Butterman befriends him, and from that blossoms the kind of buddy movie all buddy movies wish they were. There's no romantic interest in this movie – the emotional relationship that the movie hinges on is, of course, the relationship between Angel and Butterman.
But Hot Fuzz is not just a buddy movie – there are slatherings of Inspector Morse, Bergerac (Timothy Dalton's moustache is pure Bergerac) and Midsomer Murders too. Angel has to learn that he's moved to the countryside now, and that things are done differently here. For starters, there are no murders, just… a few unfortunate accidents. The village is close, very close indeed. In fact, Butterman explains, the local supermarket 'trolley boy' – a big, brutish man with a very low IQ who says 'Yarp' a lot – actually “lives down the road with his mum and his sister”, but when Angel asks about his mum and his sister, Danny says “Oh no, there's only one of them”.
The first part of the film, whilst a little sedate as they establish characters and relationships, has its fair share of laughs, especially if you know and love Spaced and Shaun of the Dead. There are liberal references to both, including a lovely moment in the opening sequence which sees Angel looking rather suspiciously like Tyres from Spaced. The leisurely pace starts to pick up, though, after a tragic car accident which immediately arouses Angel's suspicions, but which is soundly written off as nothing more than a road traffic collision by the rest of the force. As the body count rises, in a series of increasingly gruesome accidents, Angel gets frustrated with his colleague's insistence that nothing is wrong, and the way the villagers all toe this party line.
SPOILERS: Are these spoilers? I'm never sure how spoilery my spoilers are, so if you're worried, stop reading here.
As a viewer, this is all pretty much what we know and saw in the trailers. It's not until a little later that things just get… well, really weird and a lot more icky than I expected. I mean, don't expect a blood-free film here. If you're squeamish, don't watch the closing part of the churchyard scene, for one. And the bit in the model village is a bit icky too. It's cartoon gore, but still… there's more of it than I was expecting. A lot more of it.
Although that said, one of the most discomforting moments in the film is when Angel kick's a gun-toting little old lady in the face, as she proves that indeed yes, the only people guns in Sandford are farmers and their mothers.
Hot Fuzz does an extremely good job of lulling you into a false sense of security with Inspector Morsian plot turns and then bam!, slapping you hard in the face with the gore. But just when you think you're falling into a complex and intricate plot that will require much detecting and consideration a la Inspector Wexford, the whole thing goes back to its Bad Boys II/Point Break roots (two films held up in the movie by Butterman as the epitome of cop films) and segues into an unlikely finale – possibly one of the best, certainly most bizarre, shoot-outs ever. If you can imagine Lethal Weapon in Somerset morphing into Inspector Morse and thence into El Mariachi, you're about there.
Hot Fuzz is packed full of belly laughs, winces, moments where you want to hide behind a cushion, and the best kind of adrenaline-fulled excitement you could ever hope for. It's a work of genius, and I know that it's going to take repeated viewings for me to get all the jokes, notice even half the references, and spot all the foreshadowing. In Shaun of the Dead, when Shaun and Ed are in the Winchester planning their night out, they are also outlining the whole of the rest of the movie… you just don't realise it unless you understand the code. I can't believe they could possibly resist doing similar tricks with the script to Hot Fuzz. And if they did, I'll be disappointed.
So, in conclusion, go see Hot Fuzz. Don't wait for it to come out on DVD, go see it as soon as you can. It's worth it, I promise you.
…And then go and buy the DVD so that you can watch the extras and have Pegg, Wright and Frost personally reveal all their in-jokes.