It is slightly depressing that the highest grossing British films of last year and this were, and will be, television spin-offs. Last year Sacha Baron Cohen delivered up the better-than-we-probably-deserve feature film Borat, and now comedian Simon Pegg and writer-director Edgar Wright attempt to cash in, for the second time, on the cult following for their TV series Spaced with Hot Fuzz. It seems the small screen has finally annexed the big one.
To be fair, Hot Fuzz is not really a spin-off, for that would mean serious hot-housing of half decent ideas originated from a sketch or sitcom show. No, Hot Fuzz is a culmination of many alternatively juvenile, inventive and amusing ideas touched on in Spaced and then built on in the superior zombie parody Shaun of the Dead.
The plot, for what it’s worth, concerns unimpeachable London copper Nicholas Angel (Pegg), whose record is so clean he’s making everyone else at the Met look bad. His superiors move him to a rural beat where he is given short shrift by Inspector Butterman (Jim Broadbent), and DS’ Andy Wainwright (Paddy Considine) and Andy Cartwright (Rafe Spall). Only impressionable young PC Danny (Nick Frost) is impressed by the officious bobby. But there are dark secrets hiding in them hedgerows and Angel may just be the right man in the wrong place at the wrong time.
So what have we really got here? Is it just a silly parody of the complete oeuvres of Michael Bay (particularly The Rock and Bad Boys II), Katherine Bigelow (particularly Blue Steel and Point Break) and a load of other mainstream perpetrators of the US buddy policier? Or a tired retread of the hidden suburban/rural peril genre all too recently revisited in the TV series Suburban Shootout and Desperate Housewives? Well, both really. Hot Fuzz is likeable, energetic and inventive in parts but ludicrously overlong. Also, Wright as director has none of the control over tone he exhibited in Shaun (he is an avowedly huge fan of Zombie films). Hey whatever! This will be a huge hit, but do yourself a favour and also watch Cannon and Ball’s 1982 comic opus Boys in Blue or Will Hay’s 1938 comic gem Ask a Policeman. Or read some Nabokov, for as the great man pointed out: ‘Satire is a lesson, parody is a game’.