Die Hard in a small town.
Shaun of the Dead remains one of the few reviews I've ever had hate mail about, which I've always found a little odd as it was hardly given a slating. The simple observation that if you aren't that enamoured with horror films you won't be that enamoured with SotD wouldn't seem to be a particularly controversial viewpoint, but I guess that goes to show what I know. Fortuitously, the same team reunite to poke well-meaning fun at a genre I'm a little more at home with, the high octane? action movie cum police procedural.
Nicolas Angel (Simon Pegg) can only possibly be described by the phrase 'top cop'. Excelling in both field duty and theory and completely obsessed with the job, he quickly becomes one of London's rising stars, especially following a stint in SO19, the Met's crack armed response unit chiefly responsible for vital public defence roles like shooting Brazilian electricians in the head seven times because they're wearing a backpack. At any rate, he's doing so well the rest of the force is starting to look bad by comparison, so the obvious thing for Angel's superiors to do is to promote him out of their sight, making him a Sergeant in the sleepy market town of Sandford.
The closest Sandford gets to a crimewave is the odd shoplifter and escaped swan, which is hardly the hotbed of criminal activity that Angel thrives on. Partnered with inoffensive but largely dunderheaded plod Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), Angel finds his cold, professional manner cuts little ice with the rest of the S.P.D.'s laid-back members, who quickly resort to inscribing 'twat' on his helmet and calling him Nicolarse.
Danny's continual prodding about the action end of his career might be annoying, but at least he's respected by him. Just as he starting to warm to Danny and switch off from obsessing over the job a little, a series of grizzly fatal 'accidents' occur that are, of course, not accidents at all. Once suspicions are aroused about these incidents, Angel starts putting two and two together and coming up with Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), local supermarket overlord. Well, manager, but that doesn't sound so impressive. His line in ironic payoff asides seems to suggest that he is Not Quite What He Seems. Can Angel uncover the secrets of this sleepy little town before a little 'accident' is arranged for him?
For the most part it's not the plot you'll be particularly interested in during Hot Fuzz, but the laughs provided by Pegg and co. Happily, there's no shortage of these. In fact, if you're anything like me, and my condolences if you are, then I can sell this film to you simply by saying that it features a geriatric shotgun toting woman being dropkicked in the face, thus making it the most awesome film in the entire history of film.
Well, that's probably overstating it a little, but it is pretty good. If you're going to be critical, and I suppose that's our job, you could say that it's just Pegg doing his usual schtick, but it's not exactly like we are swamped with tidal waves of Simon Pegg-derived entertainment. In fact, I don't think I've seen him at all in the time between SotD and this apart from when I popped in the excellent Big Train DVD, so I think the market will probably stand to bear this outing, especially when it's Pegg schtick at its absolute finest. There's a mix of very clever lines, foul mouthed offence and offbeat shenanigans that's a joy to behold. Pegg and Frost quickly settle into a comfortable rhythm, ably assisted be a fine turn from Jim Broadbent as local chief of police but the real masterstroke comes from the casting of Timothy Dalton who clearly has a ball hamming up his Bondian supervillain-on-a-budget.
One wonders quite how this will play outside of the UK, but then you'd be saying exactly the same things about Shaun of the Dead, and on balance I don't wonder all that hard about it. It's a deeply funny outing from all concerned, and the only flaw comes from the entirely intentionally irritating overblown editing of the final action scenes, which Edgar Wright himself calls his Stars-in-their-eyes Tony Scott impersonation. It's a pain when Scott does it, it's no less of a pain when Wright does it. It's entirely forgiveable though, and certainly doesn't stand in the way of a recommendation for the funniest film of the year thus far.
Were I in the business of passing quantifiable judgements, I'd award this 4/5 TippyMarks.
Nick Frost (PC Danny Butterman)
Jim Broadbent (Inspector Frank Butterman)
Adam Buxton (Tim Messenger)
Timothy Dalton (Simon Skinner)
Bill Nighy (Metropolitan Chief Inspector Kenneth)
Edward Woodward (Tom Weaver)