I am arguably on an Edgar Wright bender at the moment – in anticipation for Baby Driver, I have been revisiting some of Wright’s other films, almost all of them for the first time since their initial release. Wright may be a popular director, but he is by no means a populist filmmaker – he has made some truly brilliant films, and while I may not have adored Scott Pilgrim vs. the World as much as I was hoping, I knew Wright could always be considered great for his iconic Cornetto Trilogy. My personal favorite of the three films is Hot Fuzz, one of the most complex and incredibly detailed, not to mention outright hilarious, comedy films ever made. If Hot Fuzz wasn’t already on my list of personal favorite comedy films before, it is most certainly is now.
Briefly, because Hot Fuzz is anything if not well-known and beloved by many people, this film is about Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), a highly efficient and dedicated London police officer who is so good at his job, he is transferred to a small village in Gloucestershire called Sandford. It is the perfect village – neat, tidy and filled with friendly people who are welcoming to the new addition to their community. However, it is revealed that this idyllic countryside utopia is anything but perfect, and with the help of the moronic but kindhearted Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), Angel takes on an underlying conspiracy after a series of strange and macabre deaths start to occur.
Let’s jump right into it then – Edgar Wright is a talented filmmaker. That seems like a gross understatement, but it is the best way to phrase it. While he has done some bigger and more ambitious projects, I truly do believe that this trilogy is his best work. Part of that is due to the collaboration with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on all three. Pegg and Frost make a very compelling duo, and they certainly do give great performances. The best part is that they are such unconventional leading men, especially for a film like Hot Fuzz, which isn’t only a great comedy, but also a fantastic action film as well, and considering how they aren’t the typical actors who one would expect for an action film, it just adds fuel to this film’s flame of perpetual brilliance. As successful as his other films are and will be, I do think much of what makes Wright such a brilliant filmmaker is how he has a very clear method of filmmaking and a unique sense of humor, and both Pegg and Frost are able to tap into the same wave of thinking, and provide these films with the necessary skill and humor that they deserve.
Pegg has always been a versatile actor, succeeding as a comedic actor even in films that aren’t quite comedic in nature, while still (on occasion) showing a rare but capable dramatic side. Hot Fuzz gives Pegg a great character to work with, and he takes Nicholas Angel to places I didn’t expect his character to go – what could’ve easily been a caricature of uptight, by-the-book blue-collar workers actually strayed far from stereotype and saw Pegg giving a very strong performance, and perhaps my favorite he has given in the entire trilogy. While many other films rely on Pegg to be the comic relief, Hot Fuzz (and the entire trilogy, actually) allow Pegg to do tremendous work and give fully fleshed-out performances that are as hilarious as they are touching.
Pegg is always great in the films, but Hot Fuzz allows Nick Frost to give his best performance yet. As someone normally typecast as the bumbling fool, it was refreshing to see Nick Frost play…another bumbling fool? That is exactly how we are meant to see Danny Butterman, but that soon changes when we see that he is actually a far more compelling character than just a moronic halfwit. Frost commits to the role completely and plays Danny as someone equal parts annoying and lovable. There is something about Frost’s performance here that resonated with me a lot more on this recent rewatch – something about the nuances added to the character, both by the script and Frost’s performance as a whole, just took the character far from being simply an idiot, and turned him into a pretty sympathetic character who the audience can connect with. Frost is constantly wonderful here, and it surprised me as to the depths of his character, who I previously wrote off as funny and entertaining, but otherwise just a device used for comedic purposes, when in actuality he gives one of the most touching performances of the entire film.
However, the unsung hero of this film, much like with the other two films in the trilogy, is the supporting cast. Hot Fuzz has one of the most memorable ensemble casts of the twenty-first century, with each and every character being played by an actor that interpreted the role perfectly. It would be a waste to praise each and every one of them, but I certainly do think they are all a part of the same fabric that makes Hot Fuzz such a wonderful film. The most memorable performances of the supporting cast come from the two veterans of the film – Jim Broadbent, an actor who is constantly reliable in everything he does, with Hot Fuzz not being an exception. It gives him a chance to be a little more complex than he normally is, but otherwise it is the same kind of character we expect from Broadbent – but that’s perfectly fine because Broadbent is someone who excels in these kinds of roles. The other veteran in this film is Timothy Dalton, who is outright hilarious in Hot Fuzz. What could have easily been a stereotypical capitalist villain role turned into one of the most wildly audacious and odd performances I have ever seen, given by an actor who is just so utterly dedicated to giving the most outrageous, unhinged performance of a bizarre character. The entire cast is wonderful, and the cameos from the likes of Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, Bill Nighy and many others are not in the least bit wasted, and all contribute to the strong ensemble nature of Hot Fuzz.
I love Edgar Wright for one simple reason – he is someone who has clearly been inspired by other filmmakers. This isn’t an achievement in itself because nearly every film director is inspired by the work of those who have come before. Rather, Wright doesn’t make it a secret that he has been inspired, outright inserting direct references to those who have inspired him. Hot Fuzz is not an exception at all – and taking its cue from films such as The Wicker Man and Straw Dogs. There is something that connects all three of these films, particularly when you strip Hot Fuzz of its comedic nature – all three are rural horror films, showing the problems that exist within idyllic English societies. Wright doesn’t shy away from these films serving as inspirations for Hot Fuzz – there are so many overt references to these films and others, such as the fact that there is a minor character who was apparently an extra in Straw Dogs, or the fact that both Hot Fuzz and The Wicker Man are about a policeman moving to a village where it is revealed that the villagers are part of a cult (not to mention Dalton’s character is eerily similar to Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle, with the name of Dalton’s supermarket being a branch of Sommerfield’s, which is strangely parallel). There are almost too many references to other films than I’d like to mention – and it sometimes feels like despite making films that are broadly enjoyable, Wright rewards having a good knowledge of cinema, because the references are a delight.
Hot Fuzz is a very funny film. Certainly one of the funniest of the twenty-first century. It is also one of the darkest comedies I have ever seen – this film starts off as a broad and hilarious comedy, but soon turns into one of the most distressingly dark films I have ever seen – it goes to some very questionable places, and becomes far more sinister than one would expect. There is a lingering sense that something isn’t right from the moment Angel steps into the town – and a massive part of this is due to Wright’s brilliant use of foreshadowing, which I imagine he acquired from his apparent adoration of Nicolas Roeg, who perfected this kind of sinister foreshadowing with his masterpiece Don’t Look Now (a film deserving of several rewatches). There is a constant air of despair that persists throughout the film, and it is filled with twists and turns that take Hot Fuzz to areas of filmmaking where comedy films don’t normally tend to go – and while many may feel attracted to this film by its outer promise of being a broad, vulgar comedy about police officers, it is quite the contrary. It is a film that is as much a hilarious comedy as it is an elegant horror film.
Putting aside the story, let’s talk about how well-made Hot Fuzz is. It is a film that promises to be an “action comedy” – and when a film is marketed in such a way, it really is just an excuse for a comedy film to use a few explosions and a gunfight or two. Hot Fuzz is nothing like these comedy films that believe they are able to use some tense situations to count as an action film. Hot Fuzz is as much an action film as it is a comedy – and while it may be unconventional in the way it approaches it, there are some genuinely great moments in this film that don’t only pay tribute to the action genre, but are so well-constructed, it enters Hot Fuzz into the canon of great action films itself – you must be doing something right when your film can stand alongside the films that inspired it. The final fight scene at this film’s climax is everything we love about Edgar Wright – thrilling, hilarious and incredibly unconventional. I saw Hot Fuzz ten years ago, and that final scene has stuck with me since, and even on this recent revisiting of the film, I still found myself utterly captivated by the sheer brilliance of that final sequence. Truly extraordinary.
Hot Fuzz is a very popular film – and that’s wonderful. It is a film that appeals to everyone – it is hilarious and packed with action. However, above all of that, it has several surprises in it that take it to a region that no one really expected. It is a film that navigates a tricky course of storytelling, creating a film that is deeply complex and beautifully linked to other films that inspired it. Edgar Wright is a sheer genius for this film, and working alongside his regular collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, along with a dedicated supporting cast, Wright crafts one of the most incredible comedies of the current century, and one that will go down as an all-time classic, and enter into the history books as one of the most unconventional but brilliant pieces of cinema ever made. Hot Fuzz is a film that I love, and one that I won’t stop laughing about – it is original, audacious and above all, just outright hilarious in every way. If you haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for?