The second installment in the jokingly titled “Three Flavor Cornetto Trilogy” a thematic series of films starring Nick Frost and Simon Pegg was always a bit of mystery to me.
The first in the trilogy, “Shaun of the Dead”, is one of my all time favorite movies. When Hot Fuzz was released in 2007 I excitedly went to the theater ready for another comedic masterpiece. It’s not that “Hot Fuzz” was a disappointment, because it’s a very entertaining movie, but where Shaun’s references and spoofs were clear, the core of Hot Fuzz remained elusive.
That is… UNTIL NOW.
Shaun of the Dead’s themes are binary. On the one hand it’s a romantic comedy. On the other hand it’s a horror movie. In the gray land between where the two are wed you find the magic that figuratively makes Shaun of the Dead come alive. With Hot Fuzz I couldn’t quite figure out the genres or the relationship they held. The film is littered with action movie references, so on that front I felt grounded. Yes this is about action, but there are also slasher bits that felt like references to the movie Scream (which is itself a movie full of commentary), but these references felt too thin, and instead of being at odds with the Action elements, they seemed to disappear beneath the action’s weight.
The real reason I couldn’t see the other side was because I was looking at it strictly through the lens of American film genres. There’s action and a whiff of horror, but as I said neither one gave me the whole picture.
For some reason I never considered the setting, and its pure unadulterated British-ness. Hot Fuzz, like its predecessor, is a collision between two polar opposites. American Action and the less obvious quaint-Doc-Martinesque-country town that is ubiquitous in British film and television, but until my most recent viewing was completely invisible to me.
The plot of the film follows copper Nick Angel, who has taken a new assignment in a small country town named Sandford. As it happens, this is the quaintest cutest village in the entire UK and it’s not by accident. The citizens of Sandford, a goofy collection of characters each with quirks typical of any rural British Dramedy, are all involved in a slightly convoluted conspiracy to keep the town as cute as can be. When Angel decides to put an end to the conspiracy the town folk violently resist, at which point American cultural imperialism looms its ugly face and smashes its way through Sandford with a suitable lack of finesse.
This isn’t a genre mash-up, like Shaun, this is all out culture war. Once I had my goggles properly attuned to what the film was about, it felt like a whole new movie.