The guys who gave us the cult zombie movie "Shaun of the Dead" are back with a vengeance with "Hot Fuzz." It does for British cops what "Shaun of the Dead" did for the undead – and that's a good thing.
Simon Pegg, the actor who co-wrote "Hot Fuzz" with director Edgar Wright, plays Nick Angel, a tough London cop who is reassigned by his superiors to the quaint village of Sandford because his exemplary arrest record is showing up his fellow officers.
Sandford on the surface seems like a sleepy little enclave, but Nick soon finds reasons to spring into action: the local pub is serving pints to underage kids, and an escaped swan is on the loose. A chubby local, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), attempts to drive drunk and is collared by Nick. He turns out to be the son of the local police chief (Jim Broadbent) and Nick's new partner. And so it goes.
Nick and Danny end up being a better crime-fighting team than either imagined. Danny is a fanatic for Hollywood cop extravaganzas and regularly replays "Bad Boys" and "Point Break." All of this comes in handy when Sandford turns out to be a haven for killers.
Wright's fast-cutting and megaviolent pyrotechnics are both an homage to and a sendup of Danny's favorite movies. It's rare to see an English movie – comedy or drama – with this much action. It's even rarer to see an English movie that's about the police instead of gangsters. These days, you take your movie breakthroughs where you get them.
In addition to the marvelous lead cast, all sorts of funny performers show up in cameo roles, including Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy, and Timothy Dalton, who plays a supermarket magnate as if he were Iago in a roadshow production of "Othello."
In the recent "Grindhouse," Wright directed a very funny mock trailer for a horror movie called "Don't." The difference between "Grindhouse" and "Hot Fuzz" is instructive. In the Tarantino-Rodriguez double feature, the Z-movie badness was achieved without a lot of winking at the audience. "Hot Fuzz," by contrast, is a take-off on the Michael Bay ("Bad Boys," "The Rock") school of filmmaking that never lets you forget for a millisecond how absurd those Bay films really are.
At the same time, it's clear that Wright is having a ball shooting the works. English comedies don't always travel well abroad, but this one should do just fine.
Wright is spoofing a cinematic language that, for better or worse, is universal. Grade: A–
Rated R for violent content including some graphic images, and language.
Sex/Nudity: 3 instances of innuendo. Violence: 18 scenes, often hyperviolent. Profanity: 34 expressions, mostly harsh. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 9 scenes with alcohol, 5 scenes with tobacco.