Hot Fuzz

When the first feature from director-cowriter Edgar Wright and star-cowriter Simon Pegg, Shaun of the Dead, came out in 2004, it caught everybody by surprise. Not only was this tribute to zombie movies funny, sharp, scary, and extremely well-made, it was also poignant and real – something nobody expected out of a zombie movie.

The two set the bar sky high for their followup film, and Hot Fuzz does not disappoint. Like Shaun, it is not so much a parody of a genre (in this case, the loud, bullet-riddled cop buddy movie) as it is a genuine comedic homage.

The plot: Ultra-serious workaholic London cop Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is so good at his job that his superiors feel like he's making them look bad. And so they transfer him to an idyllic English village, where the only "action" involves the occasional shoplifter or runaway swan. Angel feels stifled, and the rural police force he's stuck working with treat him like a fool – especially when certain villagers wind up brutally murdered, something only Angel notices.

For much of the film's running time, Hot Fuzz plays out more like a murder mystery than an action picture. It's only after a hilariously unexpected plot twist that the third act kicks in and brings the mayhem. I'm giving nothing away here, but be patient, for that third act is worth the wait.

Ultimately Hot Fuzz is not so much a satire of Jerry Bruckheimer-produced action pictures as it is a satire of British life, just like Shaun of the Dead, and it's the unique style and worldview of Wright (and Pegg) that set the film apart from lame American spoofs such as Scary Movie or Loaded Weapon I. If it doesn't quite achieve the greatness that Shaun did, it's only because it lacks the depth of that film's character relationships – and that third act, as spectacular as it is, doesn't hold back on the trite action movie cliches, either. So Hot Fuzz is a little less original and a little less profound than Shaun of the Dead, but it's still great, witty fun.