“Here Comes the Shock” by Green Day, Hot Fuzz and More!

Hot Fuzz

Will: Thanks to some time studying abroad across the pond in college, I fancied myself an anglophile, at least in terms of sports and pop culture, for a large amount of my 20s. One previously indie-like artist that caught my fancy and eventually became a force in the States was English director/writer Edgar Wright. I was turned on to his television project Spaced (1999-2001) which allegedly followed the adventures of two single apartment seekers (Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes) who pretend to be a couple so they can rent out a nice flat in North London. Though this was the basic premise, the show immediately strayed from it, introducing wackier and wackier characters and descending into a pop-culture referencing absurdity. It was a wonderful show and obviously a clear influence on Wright’s future film work.

The attraction of Wright (and co-writer Pegg) was he brought witty dialogue-heavy scripts to the Spaced set that reminded me, years earlier, of a young Kevin Smith. But whereas Smith specialized in dialogue and an encyclopedic knowledge of comics, Wright added an intense visual flair and a Tarantino-esque knowledge base of filmmaking to the proceedings. Combining Smith’s words with Tarantino visuals made for compelling television and it seemed no one could make an homage better than Wright. Naturally, his skills easily translated to film and with Shaun of the Dead (2004), a lovingly traditional yet also subversive take on zombie films, Wright had international acclaim and crossover appeal.

And instead of chasing Academy dreams or high profile projects, Wright stuck with his pal Pegg and decided his next feature would be a dissection of the American buddy/action film but with a British makeover. That film was Hot Fuzz (2007) and, a few years removed from college, it was my cinematic treasure. I saw it multiple times in the theater and owned the DVD the instant it was released. I quoted it endlessly and, well, couldn’t really watch traditional action films the same anymore. Like any good parody, it had taken every trope and cliche from the action genre and presented it lovingly and faithfully all while acknowledging it was patently ridiculous and, perhaps, a little long in the tooth.

In the film, intense by-the-book police officer Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is transferred from the London police force to a tiny village in the country because he was making the rest of the department look bad. But while getting used to the quaint village’s quirky customs and lack of any real crime, Angel, along with his new partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) begin to suspect that a recent string of heinous accidents might actually be the result of a major conspiracy. Hijinks (and lots of absurd action) ensue.

After Wright’s masterful adaptation of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), I kind of fell off the Wright bandwagon much like I had years before with Kevin Smith. I found the on-the-nose homages a bit too cutesy and the specific dialogue construction too labored. I gave up on it and felt I had “outgrown” the material. I didn’t see The World’s End or Baby Driver (the last of which was critically heralded) and thought that, like Smith’s early work, Wright was just a fancy of youth.

However, fourteen years after Hot Fuzz‘s initial release, I was able to revisit the film at a local outdoor cinema (shout out to The Film Bar. For cinema lovers, they have an online film service and all proceeds go to help keep the original location open as it suffers from the pandemic) and see if maybe you can go home again. This time I took my eleven-year-old daughter to see if the humor would catch on to her. And I’m happy to say that Hot Fuzz, all these years later, still works. But it works for entirely different reasons than it did before.

Yes, the dialogue does feel a little too deliberate and cutesy (a lot of Smith/Tarantino/etc films have that quality where the patter and staccato feel too fabricated and unnatural) but it is in service to referencing action films of the ’80s and ’90s (when the genre was at its peak) and the ’00s (when it reached its nadir, likely with Bad Boys II, a film Hot Fuzz lovingly pays homage to). Since it has been a decade-plus that has passed since the film’s references were relevant, Hot Fuzz now takes on a new quality: nostalgia film. While Hot Fuzz in 2007 was seen as a witty send-up of the genre, poking fun at it, Hot Fuzz of 2021 now seems like a perfectly replicated love-note to the genre. The jokes, seen as over-the-top and absurd then, feel authentic and accurate now, creating, in essence, the perfect action film from a dead era.

This was likely Wright’s intention all along in one way or another but I don’t even think he could expect the film to age and evolve as differently as it did. This feels less spoof now: it actually hits hard as a genuinely good actioner. With the exception of Mad Max: Fury Road and the Russo Brothers Captain America films, old-fashion action films with the ’80s/’90s aesthetic are hard to come by now. And for someone like my daughter, who has no clue that Hot Fuzz is even parodying something, Hot Fuzz becomes more legit and straight as each generation enters the picture.

It does help that Wright’s focus on the technical aspects of action films is so precise. The sound design, always a strength of a Wright production, is exquisite and played for comedic effect. Doors opening and closing are given an insane amount of “oomph” and minor things like a pen clicking on, a plant being watered, or a swan flapping its wing is given gigantic sonic resonance. And Wright’s use of quick and smash cuts is still engaging. While he reached his peak with Scott Pilgrim vs. the World with his style, it wasn’t until Baby Driver that Wright’s production teams received Oscar attention. Believe it or not, Hot Fuzz is technically an Oscar-worthy picture and still deserves attention with modern-day films.

The other thing that never got old and I appreciate even more today is the performance of Timothy Dalton as potential baddie Simon Skinner. Dalton knows exactly what type of film he is in, balancing hammish villainry with undeniable charm. Dalton was already my favorite James Bond but now he might be one of my favorite cinema villains. His line delivery is absolutely delicious! He steals the film from an incredibly loaded cast (which includes Oscar winner Olivia Colman before she was a big name in the States).

So Wright seems to be a director I need to revisit (and, in some cases, discover for the first time) much like how I’ve recently let Kevin Smith back into my good graces. If his work on Hot Fuzz is any indication he is not only a wonderful talent but one, regardless of my taste, that never actually went anywhere.

Those are our recommendations this week! What are yours? Let us know in the comments!

Written by TV Obsessive

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