On Saturday night in Austin, Harry Knowles and the Alamo Drafthouse hosted a special “Hott Fuzztival” headlined by a screening of the upcoming Edgar Wright comedy, Hot Fuzz (opening April 20 from Rogue/Focus). The all-day event began at noon, with retrospective screenings of cult-classic cop movies presented by Wright and Alamo owner Tim League. The selections of the day included such B-movie greats as Electra Glide in Blue (1973), Sudden Impact (1983), and more. All of this led up to the main event, the highly anticipated Hot Fuzz, which has already been a box office success back in the U.K. I’ve made no mistake on this blog to champion the unabashed talents of the team behind Fuzz, a team that has crafted such totally entertaining and hilarious works as the BBC series, Spaced, and the zombie spoof Shaun of the Dead. In short, I was high on the “wanna see” charts for Fuzz, their latest comedy and a look at the tough-cop genre…
(Matt Singer, of IFC News, interviews audience members in-between films at the Fuzztival, but still has to time to mug for my camera. Singer and the IFC crew have been following the ‘Hot Fuzz’ trio on their American publicity tour.)
… Jarren and I arrived near the homestretch of the Fuzztival, just in time to catch the James Caan and Alan Arkin (uneven and offensive) cop comedy, Freebie and the Bean (1974). Once it ended, Tim League took to the Alamo stage around 10 p.m. to bring up Fuzz director Edgar Wright and co-stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to introduce the film. Adorned with matching country/western shirts, the trio of funny friends primed the crowd for the Hot Fuzz experience. And away we went…
(Simon Pegg, seated far right, joins Edgar Wright, seated middle, and Nick Frost as they sign “Hot Fuzztival” posters in the Alamo lobby.)
… Shaun of the Dead packs more emotional punch, and is probably a funnier film, but Hot Fuzz is more accomplished and complete as a package. Pegg stars as die-hard London cop Nick Angel, who has an arrest record 400% better than any of his fellow police officers. Intimidated by his talent, Nick’s superiors (Bill Nighy, Steve Coogan, and Martin Freeman in cameos) transfer him to the quaint countryside village of Sandford. Nick is a fish out of water with his bungling Sandford colleagues, led by Inspector Butterman (Jim Broadbent) and his son Danny (Nick Frost). Danny and Nick become partners and do whatever they can to kill the monotony of the seemingly safe village. All the while, Nick aches for his fast-paced city cop lifestyle and Danny – an avid action film geek – spends his time referencing every cop movie he can think of. When a series of deaths are believed by Nick to be the first Sandford murders in 20 years, he races to solve the crime and turns the town upside down in the process.
In other words, Hot Fuzz is not the straight-ahead genre spoof that Shaun of the Dead was. Instead, it’s a cop comedy with occasional winks to the genre that spawned it. It’s a cop comedy made by a bunch of a guys who love watching (and poking fun at) these tough-cop films (think Lethal Weapon, Die Hard, Tango & Cash, etc.). Granted, many of the laughs come from the references (Point Break, in particular, gets a hilarious homage), but this revised formula saves Hot Fuzz from what hurt the last 20 minutes of Shaun of the Dead. For my money, Shaun was a gut-busting zombie comedy for the first 2/3, and then it sank into zombie conventions and shed its humor for the real thing. No such tone shift here, Hot Fuzz balances the comedy and the cops with precise measure. Plus, Hot Fuzz feels more like an ensemble piece that expands beyond just the insanely talented Pegg and Frost. They have their easy chemistry intact, but they also find time for the rest of the cast to shine through (Paddy Considine, for one, takes a step back and delivers in a supporting role)…
(Pegg, Wright, and Frost during the post-screening Q&A.)
… Edgar Wright and his stars returned to the Alamo so they might view the final shoot-out of the film, which is a deliriously funny and action-packed sequence. You can tell that Wright pulled out every film-geek trick in the “cops ‘n’ robbers” textbook. Once Fuzz ended to rousing applause, the film’s Q&A was a typically funny/enlightening affair. Some of the nuggets of information discovered include:
– Pegg and Frost don’t have plans to return to television anytime soon. Their announced TV project, La Triviata, has indefinitely stalled after they could not agree with their network on casting. As Pegg said in the Q&A, when asked why they would probably stick with film, “It feels like we’ve boarded a different bus.”
– The casting of Timothy Dalton for Hot Fuzz had more to do with his iconic role as Prince Barin in the 1980 film version of Flash Gordon, than it did with his role as 007 in two James Bond films.
– Edgar Wright shot his faux trailer for Grindhouse (entitled Don’t) over a year ago, and it features appearances by Pegg and Frost.
– Wright revelead that, even though the film features some high-speed car chases and driving, they never actually got the chance to close any roads during production.
(Jarren oustide the Alamo with Scott Weinberg, Austin-based online writer for Cinematical, JoBlo, Fearnet, Rotten Tomatoes, and more.)
With its refined sense of style and storytelling, Hot Fuzz has the potential to break bigger in America than Shaun of the Dead ever did. Yet, for all of us Spaced fans, we’ll know deep down what true absurdists these three men can be.