RV!: Hot Fuzz (2007) Dir: Edgar Wright Date Released: April 2007 Date Seen: March 7, 2010 Rating: 3.75/5
As anticipated, my sensitivity towards Edgar Wright's follow-up to Shaun of the Dead (2004) has abated considerably with time. When Hot Fuzz first came out, I had a fairly knee-jerk reaction to the film. I know this now but that the time I was rather down on the film, even if I don't think my grade of it has changed at all (I think it was originally a B+ as well but it might have been a B). At the time, Hot Fuzz was a disappointment because it wasn't nearly as concise or emotionally involving as Shaun of the Dead. Comparing the two films was inevitable for me at the time because when Shaun of the Dead was released, it was a very good time to be a young cinephile. I felt like I was part of a community of fanboys that were all discovering these comedians for the first time and in the process had discovered a niche that was still fresh with ideas and possibilities. I was in high school at the time and remember seeing the film by myself some weekend at the AMC Empire 25, back when that theater seemed like a new and exciting theater (yes, such a time existed, or at least for poor deluded me it did). It's a personal experience that I treasure to this day. So when Hot Fuzz came out, I was automatically on the defensive. I felt like Wright, Pegg and Frost were my guys and I was unreasonably hyper-critical of Hot Fuzz as a result. Mea culpa.
I'm very happy to report that I didn't find Hot Fuzz's loose pacing to be particularly bothersome. In fact, I think I can even appreciate the film's broader scope to be in its own way. Now it seems as if Shaun of the Dead was an exceptionally compact and heart-felt dry run for bigger and more ambitious things (ie: Hot Fuzz) later on down the road. Shaun just happens to be better than those things because of its micro-scale ambitions. I no longer see the screenplay's tendency to dither when it should've be more economic in its narrative and its humor. Instead, I find that to be indicative of the way Wright and Pegg are trying, not always entirely successfully, to broaden their creative horizons by intentionally biting off more than they can chew.
In that context, Wright and Pegg do fairly well for themselves, especially considering that their sense of humor and style of filmmaking is fairly crude. Wright's hyper-active method of direction and Pegg's sense of humor are nothing if not deferential to their target audience. They constantly flatter the viewer with inside jokes and running gangs to ensure that their audience know that they're in on the joke. The trade-off is that the punchline to their films' narrative-long jokes are the the genres that they're paying tribute to, in this case buddy cop drama/comedies, policiers and...The Wicker Man?! Huh, ok. The problem, if there ever was a problem, with Wright's style of pastiche, is that it lets the viewer enjoy a privileged position for gags that do most of the heavy lifting for them. It's the ultimate expression of fan service and in that sense, Hot Fuzz is very satisfying.
And yet, I still have a problem with the film's action scenes. There's very little spectacle in an action scene I can't visually assemble because of a heavy and frankly unnecessary emphasis on visual dynamism over honest to goodness choreography. That still bugs me a great deal in Hot Fuzz, especially because its a comedy about loving films so much that your life becomes governed by generic norms. But it's a lot funnier this time around and I could accept its flaws knowing that I wasn't going to get much better than what I was given.