Monday, 16 November 2009

You wanna be a big cop in a small town? Fuck off up the model village

No 374 - Hot Fuzz
Director - Edgar Wright

I feel like I let Baz Luhrmann down. I tried to blog about Romeo and Juliet but Big Train was playing in the background.
Hot Fuzz seems like the most fitting film to watch for a number of reason.

1) I've already watched The Wicker Man and this is the only film I own with Edward Woodward in and I felt that I should watch something to salute such a great man.
2) Big Train ballsed up my last blog and this has many key members of the Big Train cast.
3) Sandford's amateur dramatics company put on a show of Baz Luhrmann's William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. So there is a connection...

Hot Fuzz is the second film in Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's Blood and Ice Cream trilogy. Where Shaun was a horror, this is the action film. It also shares a lot of jokes and sly nods to the Shaun. Most notably with the repetition of jokes such as the shortcut over garden fences and the cornetto punchline. Most amusingly though, the DVD of Shaun of the Dead is seen in Somerfield's bargain basement. Though under the Spanish title of Zombie's Party.
However, the problem with referencing Shaun so frequently and heavily is that Hot Fuzz is not as good a film as Shaun of the Dead. Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg seem much more comfortable writing horror. Whilst Shaun was a funny film, it was also a generally freaky zombie film and follows the important horror rules from Romero.

Whereas Hot Fuzzis a film of many parts. The first half of the film is the strongest as it fluctuates between a comedic bromance and a genuinely dark and 'wicker man' slasher film. It is once we hit the action section that the film seems to become a spoof. Shaun was strong because the horror was genuinely scary. But action is so ridiculous already, that by following the rules in a comedy, it feels like an action spoof.

Don't get me wrong, I love this film. For many reasons. I just feel that the majority of the action set piece is the film's weakest part. With one exception. The final fist fight in the model village. It is gritty and it is dirty and it is brilliant. It would be perfect, however Nick Frost doesn't have the emotional range needed to really convey the Point Break pastiche.

So..... that is my main chagrin with the film. Let me talk about what I love. Mainly, the cast. The film’s real strength comes in the excellent casting. Like Shaun (I must stop referring to Shaun), this film has the great and the varied stars of British comedy. Everybody from small, almost extra roles by Robert Popper through to bastions of our generation such as Bill Bailey and the criminally overlooked Kevin Eldon. But, what this film really surpasses with are the number of big names. Bill Nighy returns for a mere cameo and is joined by other pillars of British cinema. The late Edward Woodward is pompous and proud and a bit of a busy body and does so with great relish and gusto and the ever fantastic Jim Broadbent plays up to his warm and cuddly side, eventually showing a darker side than usual as he becomes a snarling gun toting villain.

But there are 2 (well technically 3) roles which truly steal the show. Firstly Timothy Dalton, on fine form. This is the best role I have ever seen him in. Slimy, self important and entirely untrustworthy. His is he/isn’t he possible villain is the pinnacle of the film and his horrific church based injury provides (in my opinion) the biggest laugh. It shows what a fantastic actor he is. It shows that he still has all the suave expected from a man who played Bond, and yet when he pulls out the charm he just comes off as cheesy and sinister.
A brilliant character in a brilliant supermarket kingdom where he is surrounded by equally sinister and odd looking store staff and the fabulous Alice Lowe. Who, despite (or worryingly, maybe because) playing a common white trash hussy, I find her quite hot.

The second (and third) role which steals the show are the Andy’s. Rafe Spall (Son of Tim and brought into the public eye by his shit-eating grin in Shaun of the Dead) is joined by the mighty Paddy Considine as a couple of lazy, violent, sarcastic detectives sporting matching aviators and fantastic moustaches which bristle with spite towards Pegg’s Angel.
Whilst the film focuses on the relationship between Nick Angel and Danny Butterman (and despite any characterisation, Pegg and Frost change back into their trademark homoeroticism whenever they share the screen), the most interesting bromance is that between Andy and Andy. Already there is the mystery of what do they do all day… it seems they just sit in their little office. Alone. Together.
Then I draw your eye to the scene where they attack the supermarket and Paddy Considine’s face is covered in Dolmio. Rafe Spall’s horror and love when he thinks his partner has been shot. That is the true display of Guy Love.

These roles are all fantastic and the film is littered with cameos and small roles that you’ll recognise from TV and film. The film’s increased budget and the increased cinematic respect for Pegg and Wright is clearly there to see. In the huge set pieces and the great casting. But what truly impresses are the subtle little uncredited cameos.
Namely Peter Jackson as a homeless man dressed as Santa and Cate Blanchett as Angel’s ex (ingeniously hidden behind forensic dust suits and face masks), however the cameos aren’t all on the screen. Listen to the 46 second piece of music as Angel arms up to attack the village. That tune is called Avenging Angel and is composed and performed by none other than Robert Rodriguez.

This film has a lot of excellent moments and a lot of wonderful pop culture references (‘by the power of Gray skull’ being a particular favourite), however whilst it is very enjoyable, it doesn’t feel as clever as their first film.

It is easier to follow the rules of horror and make something both amusing and scary (see Scream as another example). Action films are normally ridiculous anyway, and prone to ridicule. It is almost impossible to make a serious action film, let alone a serious action segment within a comedy.
It just comes off as a parody. But a brilliant well written and well characterised parody. And if that is the biggest criticism I can find, then it must be a ruddy good film.

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