Hot Fuzz premiered in the UK on Valentine’s Day 2007, also Simon Pegg’s birthday, and I was there among them, at the midnight showing at the Odeon Cinema on Holloway Road, Islington, London, England, Britain, Earth. The show was sold out, the lobby heaving with people. Now, I go to the cinema a few times per month but never have I been a part of an audience so buzzing with energy, so in sync with each other. There’s a moment where Simon Pegg does a flying kick into an old woman’s face. All together now: “Ooooo! Ah-hahaha!” Every Valentine’s Day, my friend who was with me and I re-watch Hot Fuzz to celebrate the memory of our semester in London. A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to meet Simon Pegg and told him of this tradition. He directed us to keep up the tradition for a long time.
Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the best cop in London. In fact, he’s so good, he’s making his superiors–Steve Coogan, Martin Freeman, and Bill Nighy–look bad, so they relocate him to the country, a little village called Sanford, so perfect, it keeps winning Village of the Year. Nothing ever happens in Sanford, at least according to Police Constable Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the son of the police chief, Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent). Danny and Nicolas walk the beat, eating ice cream and partaking in cinema’s shortest car chase ever. Danny is jealous of Nicholas’s career in London, feeling he’s missed out on all the car chases, gun fights–proper action and shit. But what Danny doesn’t know is one of the biggest crimes in the history of England is going on right under his nose in Sanford. All the freak accidents and unexplained disappearances over the years are starting to look more and more like the work of a serial killer. Or is it all in Nicholas’s mind? Resenting Nicholas’s success in the big city, the other officers haven’t exactly taken him in with loving arms, and now they roll their eyes at his paranoid accusations that a traffic collision beheading, a bit of loose church squashing a journalist, and gardener falling on her own shears were all caused by a baddie in a black cloak. Right up until the baddie goes after Nicholas to shut him up once and for all.
Hot Fuzz is Edgar Wright’s second film with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, following the zom-rom-com Shaun of the Dead in 2004. Although technically this is the second in Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End), you do not need to see the others to get this. They are independent stories with different characters. Like Shaun and their earlier TV series Spaced, Hot Fuzz is homage-heavy. This film is an homage to action films like Point Break and Bad Boys II. It’s a Pegg-Frost bromance, two friends vs the world. Like Shaun, every time you watch it, you’ll pick up new things. The first part of the movie parallels the second part of the movie to the point where much of the dialogue is repeated but in new contexts. For example, at the fair, Danny accidentally shoots the doctor in the foot with an air rifle. Nicholas consoles him by telling him, “He’s a doctor. He can deal with it.” Toward the end, Nicholas throws down his rifle, which goes off, shooting the doctor in the foot. Nicholas tells him, “You’re a doctor. Deal with it.” The whole movie is like that.
Hot Fuzz is one of the best British comedies there is, but, as much as it pains me to say it, it’s not for everyone. This is not the absurd, Pythonesque British comedy. It’s the subtle, clever kind. On one hand, you can have a cinema filled to the ceilings with hooting and hollering fans eating it up, but you can also have a living room full of people who all fall asleep during it, except one person who asks, “When does it start getting funny? I thought this was a comedy.” This has happened to me, and I can’t say I rightly understand why it happens. Is it an American thing? Loads of Americans like this film, though, so maybe it’s more the Anchorman crowd who doesn’t get it, I don’t have an answer for that. Ultimately, though, it’s one of the best movies around. So why not make it your Valentine’s Day tradition, too?