**** out of ***** 4/5
Simon Pegg – the Brit who first found fame in the United States with the critically lauded zombie spoof “Shaun of the Dead” – is back with another sharp satire: “Hot Fuzz.”
The movie centers around Nick Angel (Pegg), a straight-laced police officer who takes his job a little bit too seriously. In fact, Angel takes it so seriously that he is transferred from the mean streets of London to the gentle cobble-stone paths of Sandford, a quaint English village. The reason? Apparently Angel is doing such a good job that he is making the other police officers look bad.
The premise may be a little bit hard to swallow, but like the big-budgeted action films that it is paying homage to, “Hot Fuzz” doesn’t need to be believable to be entertaining. Indeed, as the plot progresses and the number of mysterious deaths in Sandford begin to mount, the scenes become increasingly more outlandish, ridiculous, and – not coincidentally – funny. In other words, you shouldn’t expect a realistic, riveting crime mystery, but you should expect an old lady to get kicked in the face.
This is all part of the way that “Hot Fuzz” blurs the line between action and comedy, an aspect of the film that manages to be both its greatest strength and weakness. On one hand, the interplay between the genres creates a tension that often results in hilarity. An example: When Nick Angel defeats a particularly menacing criminal he states dryly, “I feel like I should say something witty.”
But that very duality gives “Hot Fuzz” a slightly jarring inconsistency in tone, as if it is suffering from an identity crisis. When one of the villagers is beheaded by a falling piece of architecture, it is hard to know whether you are supposed to gasp with horror or burst into a fit of laughter.
“Hot Fuzz” tries to make you to do both at once, and it succeeds in doing so more often than you might expect. But it doesn’t really matter whether or not the fast-paced editing, frantic car chases and frequent explosions get your adrenaline pumping or they just get you to crack up; either way, you should be enjoying yourself.
At the end of the day, when peace is restored in Sanford and the credits begin to roll, “Hot Fuzz” may not be a convincing, serious action flick, but it is seriously funny.
Movie reviewer Nick Scheidies can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.