One of the most ridiculous scenes in all of moviemaking must be the closing fight of Lethal Weapon. It’s fine buddy cop action for 100 minutes, until the last 10, which involve Mel Gibson beating the crap out of a vicious criminal mastermind on the front lawn of his partner’s house as the entire Los Angeles police force…watches. It’s typical of the genre: wildly rampant machismo run amuck with no consequences, a never-ending contest to see whose explosions are bigger, whose one-liners wittier. It’s all good fun, I suppose, if you’re an 11-year-old still playing G.I. Joe or some fight club dweeb who needs more testosterone fixes than Chyna.
Thank goodness for Hot Fuzz. The follow-up from the same British team that brilliantly spoofed zombie films in 2004’s Shaun of the Dead—actors/writers Nick Frost and Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright—takes aim at the expanse of comic material available in buddy cop cinema. Nothing is sacred, with pointed references to Point Break, Bad Boys, Rush Hour, Die Hard and, of course, Lethal Weapon itself. And for those who aren’t familiar with the team’s mocking style, the delivery is snarky, black and understated; don’t mistake this for another Mr. Bean-type UK export.
The setup in Hot Fuzz introduces Pegg as the resident fastidious badass of the London police. His excellent service is making the rest of the force look poorly, however, so Pegg’s “promoted” to a Podunk town patrolled by an inept police department. There he’s partnered with the clueless Frost, who also happens to be the son of the captain and a buddy cop film junkie; they meet when Pegg arrests Frost for drunk driving. As their relationship grows, so does the murder tally in their little village.
But the plot is beside the point (especially in the last 30 minutes of the little-too-long two-hour film). Instead, Hot Fuzz is about the subtle pokes and prods that creep up along the way. One of my favorites is how unnecessarily dramatic the editing is, and how the sound effects worked my subwoofer like GWAR—even the most benign procedures, such as the turn of an apartment key, are accompanied by an exaggerated roar from the speakers, just like a typical action movie’s most intense sequence. It all sounds like Michael Bay’s wettest dream, only here it’s supposed to be funny. And that’s the thing: fans of Bay (he directed both Bad Boys films and, most recently, Transformers), whoever they are, will actually get a kick out of this spoof as much as those of us who think most shoot-’em-up action films are as stale as Gibson’s acting career.