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Hot Fuzz: Good cop, great cop

Shaun of the Dead filmmakers skewer the usual suspects



In the action-comedy Hot Fuzz, Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a cop on the edge. Out for justice as London's most efficient police officer, he's shocked by the sudden impact of his unexpected transfer to Sandford, a tiny town in rural England. Angel gets marked for death when he uncovers the village's sinister conspiracy, but the bad boys learn that he's hard to kill.

One of the kicks of Hot Fuzz is the way co-writers Pegg and director Edgar Wright take the loud, chest-thumping Hollywood action-film genre and plop it down in a sleepy, tweedy town where folks say such things as, "A spot of bother." It's like letting hyperviolent director John Woo loose in a Jane Austen plot. Like Wright and Pegg's previous collaboration, the sublimely silly 2004 zombie comedy Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz manages to spoof a gory movie genre in one breath and pay tribute to it in the next. Unlike cop parodies such as The Naked Gun films, Hot Fuzz builds to genuinely thrilling action scenes, only set in humble grocery stores and cobblestone town squares.

Like nearly all police movies with at least two stars, Hot Fuzz is a mismatched buddy film, with supercop Angel paired with P.C. Danny Butterman (Shaun's Nick Frost), a bumbling bobby who mostly derives his knowledge of law enforcement from DVDs such as Point Break. Pegg hilariously captures Angel's slow burn and taciturn toughness as he endures Butterman's chatter while wasting his time pursuing runaway geese.

Hot Fuzz makes an amusing running joke by presenting nearly every action – filling out paperwork, hanging coats on hooks – in the vocabulary of action movies, with tight close-ups, rapid editing and inappropriately booming sound effects. Wright, Pegg and company love how action flicks can pump up the audience's adrenaline levels, but have no illusions about how essentially dumb they are. Plus, during a trend of Will Ferrell comedies with scripts that seem to be loosely structured vehicles for improvisation and funny outfits, Pegg and Wright pen airtight screenplays in which no gag gets wasted, no plot thread goes unresolved and physical comedy features ambitious choreography. Hot Fuzz works almost like a live-action version of the ingenious "Wallace & Gromit" shorts, only with more pumping shotguns and exploding heads.

Hot Fuzz. 4 stars. Directed by Edgar Wright. Stars Simon Pegg, Nick Frost. Rated R. Opens Fri., April 20. At area theaters.

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