At first, it seemed that the geeks were going to inherit the cinemas. But while Grindhouse, with its excessive homage to a cultish genre, did disappointing business in general, the experience proved to be Mecca for those seeking their fill of insider jokes and genre satire.
Enter Hot Fuzz and its director Edgar Wright.
Hot Fuzz is a mash-up of every flashy cop movie cliche, brought to us by Britons and pop-culture savants Wright and Simon Pegg. Wright, along with writer and actor Pegg, are the creative force responsible for this movie as well as Shaun of the Dead, the critically acclaimed 2004 romantic comedy with zombies, as well as the too-short TV series Spaced—a gem not (quite) available in North America. Both Shaun and Spaced are hyper-culturally aware—the lines between the categories of comedy and spoof are quite blurred.
Where does Hot Fuzz fall? Is it an action-movie parody or a comedy with action scenes in it?
"Probably the latter, not that there aren't parody elements," Wright says, on the telephone from Toronto in the midst of a publicity tour across North America. "And with Hot Fuzz, what we tried to do was make a genre film and play it pretty straight and where the laugh comes from is the fact that you're watching this"—a cop movie—"play out in a rural town."
In the film, Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Pegg), proficient in armed and hand-to-hand combat, is sent to idyllic Sandford after embarrassing the London Metropolitan Police with his arrest record 400 percent above average. Once there, he teams up with the slovenly beat cop Danny (Nick Frost) to investigate some unusual and highly coincidental accidents that have befallen the more prominent villagers.
While posters, trailers and TV spots have played up the buddy-comedy-with-action angle, some of the more endearing scenes concern the brash juxtaposition of rough-and-tough policing with the mores and values of Britain's quainter villages—the first half of the film plays like any of a number of twee big-screen Britcoms such as Saving Grace, which was intentional.
"I find it amusing that the way people see Britain is in little picturesque films like Calendar Girls, chocolate-box like in Bridget Jones's Diary and The Holiday," says Wright. "It was fun to do something in which we caused a bit of chaos."
Indeed, the punchline has been hit before. It isn't such a stretch to connect the silly comedy in Monty Python's "Batley Townswomen's Guild" sketches to the community council here, with shades of the original The Wicker Man, maniacally protecting its "Village of the Year" title.
This film feels as much like a comedic homage to cop movies as Shaun was to zombie films. Wright has stated in other interviews that he "genuinely likes" big-budget Michael Bay-style movies and Hot Fuzz is full of references to films of that ilk—Bad Boys II and Point Break serve as major plot points.
But Wright points out that "there aren't as many references as one might think. Where with Spaced we recreated entire scenes of movies, the aim with Shaun and with this one was total genre immersion. So it was more about the overall vibe rather than specific scenes."
If the first half of the film is quintessentially British, the second looks like America took over. Hot Fuzz becomes loud and bright after the protagonists indulge in one too many American cop films.
"The scene that happens halfway through is the part where they watch Bad Boys and Point Break," says Wright, then "the gloves are off and it becomes more brash, more of an American style."
Pegg's character, along with Frost's, unleash some rough justice on their suspects, played by the likes of Timothy Dalton and Jim Broadbent. It is funny to see such institutions of British film indulge in pure testosterone-fuelled gunfights. At that point, Hot Fuzz will put off any audience that might have otherwise bought a ticket for its parallels to more generic, sweet British comedies. No matter. Action fans are a dime a dozen, and Hot Fuzz has enough kick to make the true geek feel at home.
Hot Fuzz opens April 20. Check the movie times.