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Hot Fuzz Knew the Secret to the Perfect Action Satire

15 years on, the middle chapter of Pegg & Wright’s “Cornetto Trilogy” is still the best at splicing its two main styles

Hot Fuzz Why It's Good
Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    The greatest movie satires seem like legitimate entries into the genre(s) they’re lampooning. That’s as true of This is Spinal Tap, The Return of the Living Dead, Brazil, Dr. Strangelove, Tropic Thunder, Fargo, and Starship Troopers as it is the reigning king of self-referential slashers, Scream. All of these films — and dozens of others — operate on multiple levels by being faithful yet funny sendups of their chosen styles.

    Naturally, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg’s “Cornetto Trilogy” of satires also excels at balancing such seemingly divergent tones and agendas. As Pegg described to About.com in 2007, these “spastiches” — presumably, a combination of “spoof” and “pastiche” — work because they’re “inhabiting [their] genre comedically, rather than making fun of [them].”

    To use an English idiom, both 2004’s Shaun of the Dead and 2013’s The World’s End were indeed able to take the piss out of zombie cinema and alien invasion cinema, respectively, with amusing accuracy. That said, it’s the middle part of the trio — Hot Fuzz — that does it best.

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    Released in late April 2007, the lovingly crafted buddy-cop action-comedy deftly mixes authentic American style and excess with characteristic British wit and culture. Packed to the brim with affectionately adept meta-humor, inventive foreshadowing, endearing characters, shrewd plot twists, and hilariously conventional chaos, Hot Fuzz remains a nearly flawless mash-up of its formulas. Beyond that, it’s a superb example of how capable and committed filmmakers can pay exceptional tribute to the things they love.

    Given Shaun of the Dead’s massive popularity in the mid-2000s, you might think that Wright, Pegg, and co-star Nick Frost (who typically plays Pegg’s on-screen buddy) would’ve made a sequel to the zombie comedy. According to Wright, though, they preferred to “take the same sensibility and move on” with new characters and situations.

    So, why move on to a police procedural? Because, as Wright illuminated in a 2007 chat with the New York Post, “there [wasn’t] really any tradition of cop film in the UK… We felt that every other country in the world had its own tradition of great cop action films and we had none.” (Plus, Wright made an action-thriller student film called Dead Right in 1993, so he’d already had some practice and shown some attachment to the style.)

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    Furthermore, in a 2007 interview with Bigfanboy.com, Pegg noted that the “British policeman [didn’t] have cinematic prospects. Even in British cinema, it is more of the detectives that get the limelight.” He also suggested to Topel that the American action film “has fed into British culture since the ’50s in all its incarnations,” to the point that it’s “evolved into the British consciousness.”

    As Pegg adds, “And also, we’re very hungry for American culture in the UK.  I think there’s something – we have a slight – we don’t quite like seeing ourselves on the screen. We get a bit bored of it, so exotic locations and people who have guns is so exciting to us.”

    Now that the main trio had the impetus for their next passion project, they had to do plenty of research to fully realize it. That involved watching “like 138 movies during the [18 months of] writing; we watched everything,” Wright reflected in his 2007 discussion with Gather’s Stevie Wilson. That included classics like Dirty Harry and L.A. Confidential, machismo mainstays like Point Break and Bad Boys II, and even “bad cop films” starring Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal.

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