Hot Fuzz is FUNNY, plus…

Hot Fuzz

I was a bit dubious about this film, based on the previews; they made it look like the only joke was how over-the-top the violence would be, which didn’t seem likely to carry an entire film.

Then again, it’s by the makers of “Shaun of the Dead” which is funny as hell and as clever as it is goofy, so how bad could it be? It was certainly worth a shot, I figured, and sure enough, the ultraviolent part (which is indeed hilariously over the top) was the very least of the film’s considerable charms.

The hero is Sergeant Nicholas Angel, a London police officer who is so excessively overqualified that he gets shunted off to a quiet country village constabulary so he’ll stop making everyone else look bad by comparison. The culture conflict is obvious right from the start, as he arrests most of the village pub the night before he officially starts work – inluding the son of his new boss!

I won’t spoil too much, but suffice to say that Angel is so obsessively by-the-book and straitlaced (he makes Sergeant Joe Friday look like The Bad Lieutenant), and has such an overdeveloped sensitivity to potential crimes (think Adrian Monk without the neuroticism) that even half a dozen suspicious deaths in, you really have to wonder whether there really is an evil force lurking in the would-be Village Of The Year or if it really is a bizarre series of gruesome accidents and Angel is a madman chasing shadows.

Add in an offbeat and very appealing friendship between Sergeant Angel and Constable Butterman (the boss’s kid, who is incidentally obsessed with cop action films which provide many intratextual jokes) and there’s a hundred little humorous gems in the screenplay, some obvious, some subtle. This is a film that easily bears re-watching multiple times; I highly recommend it, and won’t reveal any more relevant stuff so you can fully enjoy the first watching. It does for the cop action movie what “Shaun of the Dead” did for zombie flicks.

I will, however, note one bit – not vital to the plot – which gave me a very unusual kind of warm fuzzy. As PZ Myers noted in reference to Wil Smith’s character in “I Am Legend”, in movies “[t]he [only] acceptable atheist is the one who has faced so much tragedy, whose life has been damaged by cruel fate to such a degree that his declaration that there is no god is understandable. ” All too true, but note the following dialogue between ultimate good-guy supercop Nicholas Angel and the village priest:

Priest: “Can I prevail on you to read the homily this Sunday?”

Angel: “I’m flattered, but that would be hypocritical of me.”

Priest: “Ah. You’re an atheist.”

Angel: “I’m open to the idea of religion. I’m simply not convinced by it.”

When I heard that, I was flabbergasted.

The hero of the film – and quite a hero he is, too, dedicated and incorruptible and by far the most intelligent character in the film – is an unbeliever, not because it’s been beaten out of him by horrors, but because it simply isn’t convincing.

Wow. How often do you see that in a movie?

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~ by B.T. Murtagh on March 31, 2008.

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