Officer Nicholas Angel is so good at his job that he makes his colleagues look bad. So, he is transferred from London to the little village Sandfort, where he has to deal with a different way of life, and a community where everyone knows everyone. Even though people tell him otherwise, he suspects that not all is rosy in Sandfort. Hot Fuzz is, in my eyes, a comedy masterpiece. Everything works about it.
It is fast paced in a way that I am always with the story. If I look at it in an analytical way, the unfolding of the story is very well done, from the over-the-top introduction of Nicholas Angel and his sad move to the countryside, to his getting to know the fellow police officers and the quirky inhabitants of the village (with a lot of very typical characters that refer to preconceived ideas about people in the country), and the buildup of the mystery of the crime. It is like Hot Fuzz is highly episodic, but each episode is a meticulously crafted sequence that hits just the right notes. This gives the film a feeling of confidence and a clear vision.
This feeling of solid vision and confidence is a breath of fresh air compared to comedies like The Brothers Grimsby (2016), which cannot decide what it wants to be. Droll? Vulgar? Satirical? Hot Fuzz has consistency. It has a slightly grim but goodhearted sense of humor that is just much more… genuine than the usual piss and sex jokes. Hot Fuzz didn’t take the easy, lazy way, but took care to set up jokes and give payoffs. A rich combination of editing, dialogue and visual gags gives something to snigger at for everyone.
At the same time, it is a dense film, dense with setups and visual cues and storytelling twists. So dense that you’ll probably need to see the film three or four times to catch everything. A lot of it has only a very vague connection to the eventual plot, like the terror of the living statue or the missing swan, but it is all in service of creating a sense of place and atmosphere, and none of these side plots are abandoned either. The same richness of detail is found in the characters, because there are no characters without something noticeable about them, from the mystery guy in the long coat to the gum-chewing girl of the supermarket. The film feels full, but there is so much to like about it.
Knowing that this is an Edgar Wright film, it is no surprise that the editing really stands out. Wright uses repetition of imagines to create consistency and comedic effect. In the first scenes of Angel moving to the countryside, we see him standing or sitting together with his plant, always having the same bewildered look on his face, while only the environment changes from subway to train to hotel room. Wright also focuses on the same little movements and gestures that are made every day anew, like Angel hanging up his coat or a drink set in front of him. Through repetition we notice the rhythm of his days. In addition, the editing plays with references to other movies. Most notably Point Break and Bad Boys II, but also classics like Chinatown. For the film lover, there is a lot to discover.
Hot Fuzz assembles all the male British funny people. Some only get a cameo, like Martin Freeman, Bill Nighy and Steve Coogan as London’s police officers. The real carriers of the film are Simon Pegg in a terrific on-point performance, and Nick Frost as his clumsy partner. Always welcome is also Jim Broadbent, who is just the actor for a film like this, with his genetically blessed comedic face, and Timothy Dalton, grinning and overly familiar. Even Peter Jackson is quickly visible as a violent Santa Claus and Cate Blanchett behind a facemask.
Hot Fuzz is for me the best comedy of the ‘00s, and I find it hard to think of other comedies of the past 10 years that come close to it. Of Edgar Wright’s loose “cornetto” trilogy, including Shaun of the Dead and The World’s End, I think Hot Fuzz is the high point.