"Hot Fuzz" is a smash in England, but so are greasy bangers and gray-green peas. Perhaps it's a matter of taste.
The film starts as a noir-ish police comedy (well, it's more like electronic blue-black), then segues to a send-up of slasher films, cop buddy films and just about every formula the filmmakers could think of. The lead is a policeman with an obsessive-compulsive streak reminiscent of TV-land's Monk; hooded figures in a churchyard bring to mind "The Da Vinci Code." Mainly though, "Hot Fuzz" hopes to follow up "Shaun of the Dead," the 2004 Brit hit about an aimless twenty-something who avails himself of zombie ways.
Same guys this time: director-writer Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg, who also co-wrote both movies. A good sign, but this time out the high point in "Hot Fuzz" is Chris Dickens' editing. Best is the whiz-bang beginning as Sgt. Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is expelled from the London police force for being -- well -- just too good at his job, making his fellow officers look bad by having 400 percent more arrests.
Off he is sent to England's form of a gated community: the small idyllic town of Sanford (actually filmed in lush Wales), where all is well with the world, much like "The Truman Show" (hint, hint). Of course, Angel is bored out of his skull and trolls the town for a crime, any crime.
So Angel kills time by instructing his cheerfully bungling partner Danny (Nick Frost) about the importance of police service, and also his need for his Japanese flowering plant -- the only constant in Angel's emotional life and the movie's running gag.
All of a sudden, numerous decapitated heads go a-flying, and a great deal of blood goes gushing. Angel is happy to be working at last.
Still, Wright and Pegg should probably stick to what they do best: sly local humor rather than grafting the American specialty of buddy action movies. We've done it all before, and better, in the States.
One witty bit inadvertently points this out, as the cop partners watch some gun-crazy DVDs for inspiration.
Timothy Dalton (James Bond once upon a time) is effective as a local supermarket owner. But other stock figures, such as those acting in the local theater company, the standard British rural amusement, are mere caricatures.
1 1/2 stars (Out of 4)
STARRING: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton and Billie Whitelaw
DIRECTOR: Edgar Wright
RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes
RATING: R for foul language and slasher violence.
THE LOWDOWN: More rip-off than homage, a British filmmaking team tries to mock and top the American cop genre.