The British comedy triumvirate of Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, who made the zombification of the romantic slacker comedy so much fun in "Shaun of the Dead," returns with a full frontal assault on action movies with "Hot Fuzz." Bringing in what appears to be the entire roll call of top-flight British character actors as accomplices, the movie takes aim at crime-stoppers in general with particular attention paid to the buddy cop subgenre.
Scene after scene will have you wondering, "Isn't that ... ?" and in most cases it is, as Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent, Billie Whitelaw, Paddy Considine, a delightfully oily Timothy Dalton and a host of others parade past. Apropos of its subject matter, the film joyfully wallows in Bruckheimerian excess -- over-the-top car chases, huge explosions and slow-motion gunplay. Even its primary downside, a two-hour-plus running time, would seem to be a byproduct of the indulgence.
The poker-faced Pegg stars as Nicholas Angel, a London bobby whose arrest record is 400% above anyone else's, prompting his superiors to promote him to sergeant and dispatch him to the sleepy village of Sandford in the West Country because he's making everyone else on the force look bad. The tightly wound, by-the-book Nicholas makes an unwelcome impression on his first night in town by clearing the local pub of underage drinkers and arresting what appears to be the town drunk (Frost, doing a damn fine impression of his zombie walk from "Shaun").
In the bitter light of morning, the drunk turns out to be Constable Danny Butterman, the son of the local chief inspector (Broadbent) as well as Nicholas' new partner. Everything Danny knows about police work comes from the movies in his massive DVD collection, but Nicholas attempts to teach him the proper approach with appreciably slapstick results.
The quiet exterior of Sandford disguises something more ominous, and when it's unleashed, the town's police force is ill-prepared. Good thing they have Sgt. Angel at the ready.
The film begins with a frenetic preamble establishing the curriculum vitae of Angel and the story's premise.
Director Wright and editor Chris Dickens use a rat-a-tat-tat pace that sends up police procedurals and the overly stylized visuals of TV shows such as "CSI" while gently tweaking the veddy British tradition of the dignified mystery.
The script, written by Wright and Pegg, definitely feels more English in its first half before kicking into adrenaline overdrive in the second, mimicking U.S. action movies of the last 25 years. Wright also shows he's lost none of his affection for gore, dispatching the less fortunate with bloody zeal. A couple who lose their heads in a supposed traffic collision are described by one of Sandford's finest as having been "decaffeinated."
The rapport between Pegg and Frost is much as it was in "Shaun," with Nicholas playing straight man to Danny's goofy oafishness. The pair become unlikely friends as Danny shows Nicholas the finer points of "Point Break" and "Bad Boys 2" while the film riffs on the implied homoeroticism of such films.
Pegg isn't a big guy but embraces the action hero mantle with great gusto, experiencing a Clint Eastwood-like enhancement of his voice when the chips are down.
Frost is a burly Saint Bernard of a man whose infectious enthusiasm will leave you torn between wanting to rub his ears or dive for cover from the flying slobber.
One thing that distinguishes the movie from its American counterparts such as the "Scary Movie" series or its related spawn is an insistence on telling a story. Whereas the U.S. movie parodies are content to string together gags, often without so much as a segue, Wright and Pegg are storytellers who weave their naughty bits into genuine characters and a plot. It's a ridiculous plot, but one that's absolutely in the spirit of the films they're satirizing.
There is also a sense that they have genuine affection for these movies and are not so much ridiculing them as paying homage.
"Hot Fuzz." MPAA rating: R for violent content including some graphic images, and language. Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute. In general release.