'Hot Fuzz' lukewarm

From 'Shaun of the Dead' creator, meticulous but forgettable cop-movie spoof

Posted: April 20, 2007

"Hot Fuzz" comes billed as a movie from the people who made "Shaun of the Dead," which is true, but maybe it's not something the studio should trumpet.

Comparisons are not going to flatter "Fuzz," a fitfully funny movie, but one that lacks the extra layers that nudged "Shaun of the Dead" toward B-movie greatness.

The shorthand for "Shaun" is zombie spoof, and that it is, but it wasn't until months and several viewings later that I realized the movie is also my favorite version of King Henry IV, Part 2.

Simon Pegg is Prince Hal, the fellow prodded by circumstance to abandon his youthful libertinism and take up the burden of responsibility. Nick Frost is Falstaff ("How ill grey hairs become the fool and the jester"), and the best part is, he doesn't die - he's just relegated to the shed.

The movie added a hilarious slant on the whole idea and meaning of zombie-ism - there are those unforgettably funny scenes early in "Shaun" when the walking dead cannot be distinguished from commuters, or indeed from the drunken, stumbling Shaun himself.

The shorthand for "Fuzz" is cop-movie spoof, and this time, that's pretty much what you get. This time Pegg is an energetic perfectionist cop exiled from London by superiors who resent his efficiency (it makes routine incompetence look bad).

He ends up in a small town out of a Hitchcock movie - a town-and-country exterior that disguises a perverse and dark reality. People are dying, horribly, at an alarming rate. Locals attribute the carnage to grisly accidents, but Pegg sees a serial killer at work.

No one believes him, and he's powerless to act, until he befriends the local lunkhead (Frost) who persuades him that if he can indulge in enough beer and bad cop movies ("Point Break" is referenced) he can harness their combined power to combat the dark forces around them.

Or something like that. "Hot Fuzz" lacks the clarity and clean lines of "Shaun," even as it jettisons some of the material (like romantic comedy) that made "Shaun" a pleasure.

Some of the elements, though, are the same - the ingenious way that director Edgar Wright uses visual or verbal cues in early scenes to set up clever punchlines that reveal themselves at crucial moments much later. It's meticulous writing and craftsmanship, hard to do.

There's enough of it to make "Hot Fuzz" amusing and watchable, just not memorable. And watching Pegg make the journey from man-of-action to man-of-leisure isn't nearly so much fun as watching him make the journey in reverse. *

Produced by Nira Park and Tim Bevan, directed by Edgar Wright, written by Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg, music by David Arnold, distributed by Rogue Pictures.

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