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Hot Fuzz – execrable, egregious, exasperating, excrescent…

TRAFFIC cones idiot!

TRAFFIC cones idiot!

(dead duck)

Hot Fuzz – Edgar Wright

Absolutely………………………pointless. I know I’m running against the popular grain but this embarrassing rubbish does more harm than good to the British Film Industry which everyone claims to care about. Only a misguided loyalty wrongly applied to the poverty of imagination and sheer amateurishness of this cobbled together CONCEPT movie can explain the outrageously kind critical reception it has received. I’d love to see the promotional budget. It has been hawked and hyped and hustled comprehensively through many TV and radio programmes that ought to know better than to be used so cynically to con good money out of British cinema-goers.

That said – I confidently predict this half-witted twaddle will sit atop the British box office charts for a few weeks and sadly take enough easy money to add insult to injury by inflicting another derivative, crass, rip-off spoof upon an apparently acquiescent British movie-going public. I know how pompous and patronising this sounds. But please, I really don’t think the British public is dumb enough to think this arch cross between cod Ealing Comedy and an over-extended Benny Hill Sketch, without the laughs, represents the future of the British film industry.

I will bet every pound, in my pocket, that this was financed by American money. Only Americans could possibly believe this patronising, silly arse picture of English bobbies and a Somerset village, has enough truth in it to be a believable contrast to the super cool Point Break Hollywood cop movie to which it claims to pay homage. I don’t care what they do to the Bad Boys franchise but they really get me mad using one of my favourite thriller movies for spoofing. Hell these guys would mug Bambi to make a quick buck.

In fact, the over-reverential attitude to Ealing comedies has probably done more harm than good to our indigenous cinema. After Kind Hearts and Coronets and The Ladykillers, the rest are pretty thin and I doubt whether anyone under 30 would sit through them. The idea that this twee, profoundly middle-class collection of now archaic and hopelessly dated movies somehow represents British cinema at its best is such claptrap. And Hot Fuzz captures only the self-congratulatory amateurishness of the Ealing genre – none of its gentle irony or visual and verbal wit.

The sheer cynical desperation to get some youthful bums on seats for this one is shameful. Into the Kind Hearts and Coronets-like series of murders, the charmers who made this stuff have added some grotesque blood-spattering visuals. “Hey did ya see the blood fly as that guy was split in half by that wedge-shaped bit of masonry? Yeah and, sorry I can’t stop laughing, what about when the body then walked around with this f******* great lump of concrete for a head? And what about the old bird in the Gardening shop with the shears stuffed through her throat? But the bit I liked best, sorry, I can’t get my breath, was where that guy at the end flew through the air and had that bloody great spike stuck right up through his neck and jaw. But was still talking! F****** great! You really gotta go and see it. It’s f****** hilarious!

The plot of Hot Fuzz only ever looked good in the 3-line pitch that launched the worst waste of money since the Millennium Dome. Over-zealous idealistic young cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is so good he makes the rest of his city colleagues look bad. So he’s exiled to a sleepy Somerset village where everyone looks inbred and acts like they just beamed down from the planet Zog. Almost every plot line is spoken with a tap-the-nose, know-what-I-mean seriousness that makes one long for the mindless, pointless car chases or shoot-em-up mayhem to begin. Our cranberry-juice-drinking hero having the only active brain cell functioning in the village, of course suspects that the endless series of fatal ‘accidents’ are murderous. Perhaps because more local residents get killed than in one and a half episodes Midsomer Murders, hitherto the only community on earth with a worse homicide rate than New York. Our Arch-Angel immediately suspects Timbo Dalton’s local businessman Simon Skinner presumably because of his suspiciously fruity voice, flashy cars and the fact that Dalton plays him as if he had ‘I’m the killer dear boy’ tattooed on his forehead.

Spoofs are derivative by definition. It is harder, not easier to make them funny. It requires visual and verbal imagination, flair, to wring all the possible humour out what is essentially a one running gag movie. It is the humour of delicious surprise; turning our expectations on their head. Mocking a genre and our enjoyment of it, by exploding our assumptions about it, even our usual attraction to it. For Hollywood cop movies I guess things like – idiotically excessive testosterone fuelled action, violence, machismo, super-cool heroes etc etc. To make a bunch of British bobbies emulating Hollywood super-cops funny you have to make the British bobbies believable or the contrast upon which the humour, the joke is based isn’t there. A Pantomime dame is funny because of the exaggeration and caricaturing of real grande dame old women with all their frills and flounces and mannerisms.

In the 70’s there were a series of James Bond spoofs. Variable in quality. But as the Bond movies themselves became more and more ‘unreal’, when they became a parody of themselves, they became literally spoof-proof. The last word on this subject goes to the sublime Tom Lehrer perhaps the funniest, wittiest, most stylish parodist and satirist ever: Lehrer gave up performing and went back to teaching mathematics at Harvard because he remarked – a real world run by the likes of Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger was simply beyond parody, unsatirisable.

Wright’s bobbies are simply too stupid, too obvious, too mind-numbingly cardboard to start with that he throws away the contrast which is the premise upon which any humour the spoof concept had in the first place was based. What is left is a muddled mess of wildly inconsistent tones and painfully laboured efforts to beat us over the head to laugh. We career from broad farce to the embarrassing sight of actors like Jim Broadbent having to utter ‘here’s the plot’ lines as if we are actually supposed to take them seriously. So when in doubt get noisy. Guns, explosions, crashes, chases fill in the void where invention should have been. That this is all edited with genuine skill only goes to prove that Wright has no excuse – he has enough professionalism to know better. Even one or two nice little sight gags referencing Hollywood movies prove that if the whole thing hadn’t been cobbled together so lazily, there might have been a funny movie in there somewhere.

Hot Fuzz is quintessentially English in one key respect. We are known the world over and mocked mercilessly by for example the French, (though what the French know about humour escapes me), as deeply addicted to the pun. Many cultures like such word play, however I think the English are unique in taking this nerdiness to the meta-level: we have an affection for the pun that is so bad, so teeth-achingly unfunny, that out of sheer ethnic perversity, we find its actual awfulness – funny. Hot Fuzz to a ‘T’. Only the English are so mentally deranged as to find something so bad funny just because of its irredeemable awfulness.

And what a waste of talent: Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan, Bill Bailey, Billie Whitelaw (oh Billie – how could you?), Edward Woodward, all pop in probably in their lunch break from some real acting work, to cameo silly, pointless roles for which whatever they got paid for a morning’s work was nowhere near enough. Nick Frost is the best act on show as Angel’s hero-worshipping, overweight, under-confident partner. But a very promising line of humour is just chucked into the mix and lost in the pot of message around it.

About the time you are finding some blessed relief by nodding off, the preposterous denouement, something about the Residents’ Association and winning the prettiest village award, deals the final blow to your will to live. Then no doubt to help the usherettes to clear the cinema, it’s back to a final crescendo of pointless noise, guns, explosions and crashes again.

Save your money. Put it towards that root canal dentistry you keep avoiding. It will be more fun.

(Sorry folks – I guess I went off on one there. But please……..give me strength!).

(March 2007)

3 Responses to “Hot Fuzz – execrable, egregious, exasperating, excrescent…”

  1. After sitting through the first hour of this plebeian compromise on the aesthetic minimum for a parody, and then runninhg in and out during its finale neverending denouement, I googled for “”hot fuzz” AND exasperating” and so stumbled upon your very fair review, which turns out to be one of very few indeed to dare to weigh in against Rotten Tomatoes 91% and imdb’s 8.0 score. What a pointless waste of budget and talent indeed. A single Alan Partridge scene (from the old or new 2010 episodes) will outdo this superficial tripe in imaginativeness any day.
    Compliments for so eloquently going off on one and your two cents on its aesthetic inaptitude, finally provising me with one good reason after all for having sat through it. Now still, to get that imdb and RT score down by at least 20%…

  2. please amend in last post:
    * running
    * Tomatoes’
    * providing me

    (English 3rd language + 3rd glass of Glen Grant)

  3. hey Bartleby – thanks for the comment. It’s good to know people make their own judgments about these thigs and that we don’t all follow the critical sheep.


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