The Movies We Love: Hot Fuzz

Consider this the debut article in a new series called “The Movies We Love”. The purpose of the series is to shine the spotlight on films that make you feel a special bond. These are the movies that you watch again and again, over and over, without losing an ounce of enjoyment. These are the movies that you quote incessantly. These are the movies that perfectly reflect something about you, whether it’s your interests, fears, humor, or motivations. These are the movies that you love. The first entry should come as no surprise to regular readers. I’ll be focusing on Edgar Wright’s brilliant action-buddy cop-comedy, Hot Fuzz. Why do I love Hot Fuzz?

Spoilers ahead…
Any discussion of why I love this movie must begin with the genius of the screenplay. It’s comedic writing at the peak of the genre. Every single set-up in the first half of the movie pays off with a punchline in the second half. Some examples:

12 Down

-When Nicholas Angel first comes to Sandford, he meets Joyce Cooper, cheerfully working on a crossword puzzle. She (seemingly) calls him a fascist when in reality she’s working on the puzzle. He returns the favor by giving her “hag” (12 down). At the end of the movie in the shoot-out, Angel and Cooper are dueling. Naturally, she barks out “Fascist!”, to which he replies “Hag!”

-Early in the film, Angel and Danny Butterman are sitting in their squad car when Angel sees Mr. Treacher approaching, wearing a heavy down winter coat. “What’s he hiding?”, Angel remarks. It seems like nothing, since Treacher appears to be a kindly elder gentleman. But when the bloodbath starts at the end of the movie, we find out that he was indeed hiding a shotgun.

-On Angel’s first full day, he walks into Mrs. Roper’s store. Over the Neighborhood Watch Alliance’s walkie talkies, we hear Roper say “That Sergeant Angel’s coming into your shop. Get a look at his arse.” Later, at the beginning of the bloodbath, Angel returns in full spaghetti western style atop a horse. Almost verbatim, Roper echoes her previous comment, modified only slightly. “That Sergeant Angel’s coming into your shop. Get a look at his horse.”

-When Angel and Butterman are called upon to track down Mr. Staker’s stray swan, they fail. In Roper’s shop, she asks Angel “No luck catching them swans, then?”, to which Angel replies “Actually, it’s only one swan”. Later, we get almost the exact same scene as the murders begin to mount, this time with Roper speaking to Danny Butterman. “No luck catching them killers then?”, she inquires. “Actually, it’s only one killer”, says Butterman.

-At the festival, Danny accidentally shoots Dr. Hatcher in the foot. Angel reassures Danny by telling him that “He’s a doctor. He can deal with it.” Fast forward to the bloodbath. Yet again, only this time in heroic fashion, Danny has shot Dr. Hatcher in the foot. As Hatcher whines about it, Angel spits “You’re a doctor. Deal with it” in his face (punctuated by Danny’s hilarious “YEAH, MOTHERFUCKER!”).

Hullo, Brian... er, Julia Deakin.

-When Angel first comes to town, he goes to the pub where Roy and Mary Porter bemoan local journalist Tim Messenger’s poor writing skills. Specifically, they whine that he has listed Mary’s age as 55 when she’s actually 53. Later, when Angel discovers the cult-like Neighborhood Watch meeting and confronts them about their murders, he asks why Tim Messenger dies. Mary Porter, verbatim, points out that Messenger had listed her age as 55 when she’s actually 53.

I could go on and on with this. Everything I’ve just listed only begins to scratch the surface. It all adds up to a script that doesn’t waste a single ounce of energy. There isn’t an action or a line that isn’t efficiently used later for double-effect and humor. Wright and Simon Pegg really out-did themselves with the screenplay.

And aside from the humor, there’s the pastiche of tens of cop movies that came before it. There’s a low-angle shot with a helicopter flying overhead, as happened in Bad Boys II. There’s Danny, flying across the screen to block a bullet aimed for Angel, just as in In the Line of Fire. There’s John Woo’s signature pigeons scattering. At one point, Danny is forced to shoot his own father, but instead opts to yell “Aaaaargh” while shooting into the air, a la Point Break. Butterman uses a line from Chinatown, tweaked only slightly for his own purposes (“Forget it, Nicholas. It’s Sandford”). Again, this could go on and on. It’s not so much a spoof of these films as it is a loving homage.

Meet the cop that can't be stopped.

Mixed in with all of this is a series of characters, all with their very own humor to be added. Nick Frost is perfect as the oafish, lovably child-like Danny Butterman. The Andys- Rafe Spall and Paddy Considine- are a constant source of humor with their very overt disdain for Angel. And that disdain even plays a key role in the movie. They ditch their Angel-loathing at a pivotal moment, when the nefarious Sgt. Frank Butterman is trying to turn the squad against Angel and Danny. Doris’ oversexed one-liners never cease to deliver the laughs (favorite part: when she enters Danny’s birthday party sporting a giant pair of plastic naked breasts). You could perform this exercise for every character. They’re all fleshed out humorously, and they all play an important role in the film.

It isn’t just the characters that are efficiently given pivotal roles. Even the one-off jokes that seem innocuous enough the first time constantly return with greater meaning to the plot. Amazingly, they retain their humor each time they’re seen. The Living Statue shows up a handful of times to great comedic effect early on. Later, when Angel falls into the mass grave of offenders who have harmed “the greater good”, he peers around a room full of corpses… finally resting on the Living Statue’s corpse, complete with the same goofy grin and pose that he had while alive. Early on, Danny gets dinged in the head with a trash can tossed by the Andys. The bit comes back later in the film’s final tense moment, not once but twice in the same scene. The swan, which started as a joke featuring Angel assuming it was a practical joke, returns at the end to save the day. It all goes back to the writing. There isn’t an ounce of wasted effort because every single character, and every single seemingly innocuous joke, is given an integral role to the film.

This is how I look when I watch Hot Fuzz.

I have rather obviously seen Hot Fuzz several times and it never ceases to amaze me. Unlike a lot of films, which lose something on re-watch, I find myself enjoying it more and more each time. I pick up something new each and every time and it enhances my enjoyment of it that much more. Even when I’m in the angriest, most ornery mood, it manages to put a huge grin on my face. The finale is on the short list of my favorite movie finales ever made. It reduces me to tears of laughter whenever I see it. In short, Hot Fuzz is one of the quintessential movies that I love.


19 Comments

Filed under Humor, Movies

19 responses to “The Movies We Love: Hot Fuzz

  1. nimorphi

    1. Timothy Dalton
    2. My dad is not Judge Judy and executioner.
    3. Angel: What kind of wine do you have?
    Bartender: We got red……and, um white

  2. MC

    Hot Fuzz is one of my favorite movies too. It seems to be a bit more polished than Shaun was and I think I like the genre it is making homage to more than zombie films.

    And I think it is one of the few movies with an epic shootout where the suspects all survived.

    The fact that there was supposed to be a love interest and they cut that out but gave a lot of those lines to Danny was also a brilliant move.

    I think the first time I rented it, I watched it 6 times over that weekend and now I own it twice.

  3. Hot Fuzz is amazing. I enjoy the reference to a Cornetto, which is also mentioned in Shaun of the Dead. I’ve heard that they refer to the films as part of the Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy. All I can say is that I can’t wait for the third film!

    Have you seen Spaced?

  4. One can’t deny the swift ability of Edgar Wright. He can make homages and tributes to other films or filmmakers so subtly, that half of them we don’t pick up on until the second or third viewing. I also love how his filmmaking pattern is somewhat evolutional. He started with Spaced, which was a short-lived but incredibly hilarious series, then evolved to Shaun of the Dead, before jumping into the fast-paced madness of Hot Fuzz and then employing thousands of cuts and technical whizzery to produce the stunning Scott Pilgrim. He’s a director who’s constantly moving on up, and it’s part of the reason I love him and his films so much. While one can’t deny they all have comedic power, it’s Hot Fuzz which has the biggest effect, undoubtedly.

  5. Yes me too!!! An amazingly funny and truly funny bit of British comedy.

    I am so glad that it is liked around the world so much

    • I spent so long thinking that British humor was Python and Benny Hill. And nothing against all of that… but it’s been a great revelation for me to discover so many more things. The Office, An Idiot Abroad, Spaced (and Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead), Black Books, etc… I think I’ve enjoyed more British comedy TV shows over the last year or two than I have American ones. It sounds crazy to say that, but it might just be true.

      • The must see show for any fan of British comedy is Fawlty Towers. They only ever made 12 episodes, but I don’t think I’ve EVER laughed so hard. EVER!!

  6. Pingback: A Dirty Little Secret: What is YOUR movie? « Film Rebellion

  7. rtm

    Hot Fuzz is such a hoot!! The dialog is awesome indeed. But I don’t know how I can forgive you for leaving out Simon Skinner!! I kept waiting for it as I read all the way down… Dalton was brilliant as ever and that ending, ouch!!

    • Ha… “I’m a slasher! I must be stopped!”

      I burst out laughing every time when he asks for ice cream with the model village’s steeple sticking out of his jaw.

  8. Patrick

    I actually saw this film in an independent theater in my town with some friends. I had no idea what to expect, but I was totally gripped the whole way through. When it came out on DVD I promptly bought it and I swear I’ve seen it more than 100 times easily. I’ve seen the commentary, and the fuzz facts more than once, and this movie is complete genius. The more you see it the more you pick up on, it’s incredible. I seriously can’t believe this movie didn’t get more attention.

  9. Sarah Dee.

    Hot Fuzz is my favourite movie and you can see how great it is and how much I love it in this Movie Review of Hot Fuzz!!!!!!!!! As seen by Simon Pegg! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=___8jRONphw

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