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Friday, July 11, 2008
'Monty Python' meets 'The Seven Samurai'
By KAORI SHOJI
Hercule Poirot once proclaimed that "the police in England are only adequate, but the English detective is a thing of marvel!" Sherlock Holmes would have agreed, having put up with the uninspired adequacy of Scotland Yard for most of his career. But no more: The English police or rather "the fuzz in the U.K.," to borrow a phrase from director Edgar Wright's maddeningly brilliant "Hot Fuzz," is a force to be reckoned with.
Forget the idea of staid constables strolling leisurely on London Bridge on a foggy night as their chief inspector back at the Yard writes up reports with a fountain pen, inserting quotes from Shakespeare to show off his Oxbridge education — the fuzz in this movie have no time for English niceties, much less a sit-down for a hot cuppa.
Crammed to the gills with action, gunfire and good old English profanities galore, "Hot Fuzz" seems to spoof almost every cop film ever made, the most notable ones being "Lethal Weapon," "Starsky and Hutch," "Miami Vice" and "Bad Boys II." But keeping tabs on what scene harks to which movie is far less important than keeping up with the actual story, which can only be described as freakishly ridiculous, in a good way. It's particular texture is "Monty Python" meets "Seven Samurai," with a muddy, bloody soccer match thrown in for good measure; but in the end, who cares? Attempting to discuss "Hot Fuzz" is a pointless endeavor, like going on and on about the merits of a pair of exceptionally wonderful running shoes — the only right way to deal with them is to try them on. Afterward, one is filled with a deep and appreciative understanding of the English expression "taking the piss," which is no small thing. Director/Writer Wright turned heads when he released the zombie spoof called "Shaun of the Dead" two years back. For "Hot Fuzz," he teams up again with fellow writer and leading actor Simon Pegg, and this time the laughs come faster, and all the stops are pulled when it comes to gore, car chases and gun slinging. Yet the humor is adamantly British. You'll savor lines such as, "There is no way you can perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork," and laugh out loud when a village gentleman reports a missing swan, and gives his name as P.I. Staker (Piss Taker, get it?).
Wright's casting is also spot-on, with former 007 Timothy Dalton playing a supermarket owner called Simon Skinner, whose main trait is a penchant for peppering even the most mundane conversations with walloping portions of profanities. Dalton's dangerously hilarious performance could displace a disc or two on Dame Judy Dench.
British movie fans will also recognize figures like Jim Broadbent, Billy Nighy and Martin Freeman clearly having fun.
But the undisputed centerpiece of the story is Pegg, who plays Sgt. Nicholas Angel, a Metropolitan Police constable whose shining diligence and humongous arrest record makes the rest of Scotland Yard look bad, and so he gets a sudden transfer to the countryside. Sgt. Angel is the "constable's constable," who used to drive a plastic kid's police car and make arrests before he learned to walk (his other career choice was to become Kermit the Frog, but he ditched that), and now in the sleepy village of Sandford — where apparently nothing ever happens — he goes stir-crazy the minute he reports for duty at the local station.
Angel is assigned a sidekick in classic cop-flick tradition: the pudgy, bumbling Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), proud owner of a vast collection of cop-movie DVDs who is overawed by the new detective from violence-ridden London. As the two get acquainted in the patrol car, Angel discovers that Sandford's idyllic peace is deceptive; the body count here racks up like the cash register at Marks and Spencer on a sale day. He gets ready to give chase and make mass arrests, but the rest of the local force — mainly because they're busy pretending Sandford has the most well-behaved residents in England — would rather treat the deaths as a series of unfortunate accidents. ("Lowest crime rate in England, but the accident rate's high!")
Running two hours, the movie is definitely not for the faint of heart or those allergic to carnage, mayhem and sight gags. But down to the last frame, it is, as Angel says, "a no-holds barred, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride."