For all the huzzahs heaped upon 2004's Shaun of the Dead, the zombie-flick spoof was little more than an extended sketch taken, oh, 19 minutes beyond its breaking point. But the movie, created by director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg, provided such a bloody good time that its acolytes and admirers didn't mind that it dragged its undead feet a little too long. Fact is, myriad deleted sequences and outtakes on the DVD are as worthy of savoring as the feature itself. So, yeah, Shaun of the Dead was too long. And not nearly long enough.
The same can be said of Hot Fuzz, wherein Wright and Pegg refashion the American buddy-cop genre in their own deadpan image. At a running time of more than two hours, it's a wee bit lengthy. And yet to see it once is to fall in love and want to pay up immediately for another screening, so abundant are the poker-faced gags that race through the village of Sandford, in which the film is set. Hot Fuzz is a cult film writ humongous -- a sendup of Hollywood spectacles that's far bigger and better than anything to which it pays homage.
Yes, Wright and Pegg have built their film on the foundations of others -- nearly 200, by their estimation, ranging from the original The Wicker Man to Freebie and the Bean to Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys II, and Point Break -- the trinity that inspires Fuzz's overwrought gunplay and homophobic homoeroticism. The tributes extend even to casting: Edward Woodward (of both The Wicker Man and The Equalizer), former James Bond Timothy Dalton, and Paul Freeman (The Long Good Friday, Raiders of the Lost Ark) all put in appearances. There is even a Moulin Rouge dig after Jim Broadbent turns up as the police chief who knows plenty about Sandford's skeletons.
Pegg plays Nicholas Angel, who, we are told, is the best cop on the London police force, trained in everything from hand-to-hand combat to chess. He's so good that his supervisors transfer him to idyllic Sandford, lest Nicholas keep shaming his inept colleagues. The town has but one major concern: to win the Village of the Year contest.
But things aren't what they seem in Sandford, and the movie crawls toward a combustible finale that references every cop movie Wright's ever seen, including a scene from Point Break in which a raging Keanu Reeves fires his gun into the air. That scene is a favorite of Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), the town drunk/police officer with whom Nicholas is partnered. Danny's been waiting his whole life for someone like Nicholas -- a proper cop who's been stabbed and shot at, and who seemingly lives the life of his cinematic idols.
Ultimately, Hot Fuzz is a kind of a love story between these two: The film is obviously inspired by a scene from Lethal Weapon in which Mel Gibson begs Danny Glover to put his gun in Gibson's mouth. But Hot Fuzz transcends its influences to create a brilliant Brand New Thing. It's not tethered to its roots or constrained by its tributes to lesser things. It thrives as its own entity, a British variation on Hollywood nonsense, and as such, it's a little gloomier, a little coarser, and a lot more cerebral -- and funnier -- than all the Reno 911! boxed sets combined.