Director and cowriter Edgar Wright, cowriter and star Simon Pegg, and costar Nick Frost, the U.K. trio behind the bitingly funny SHAUN OF THE DEAD (2004), find a new target at the intersection of noisy American balls-to-the-wall action and the kind of British mystery in which comfy little English towns prove to be rotten with dirty secrets. And it's as laceratingly entertaining as its predecessor.
Supercop Nicholas Angel (Pegg) is the best damned officer on London's Metropolitan Police Force, and his fellow officers are sick to death of him. He's humorless, annoyingly PC, relentlessly competitive and exasperatingly by-the-book, and his arrest record makes everyone else look like useless layabouts. So the powers-that-be (Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy) exile him to quaint little Sandford, a finalist for the title of most picturesque village in England and a hotbed of, well, not much. The town's zealous neighborhood-watch group is less concerned with what little petty law-breaking there is than with getting rid of that tacky mime whose faux-bot antics are mucking up Sanford's carefully calculated "ye olde" vibe. And Angel's vigorous campaign to arrest and prosecute underage drinkers and intoxicated drivers irritates the hell out of everyone, cops and citizens alike. He just can't get it through his law-and-order head that all the Sanford police force is expected to do is mediate squabbles between neighbors and collar the occasional renegade swan that runs amok rather than floating serenely in its pond. And the beauty of Wright and Pegg's sly sense of humor is that, having introduced an obstreperous swan in the first act, they make sure it plays an integral part in the film's ludicrously bloody conclusion.
In between, Angel tumbles onto a bizarre crime wave that everyone from the chief of police (Jim Broadbent) to the preening supermarket mogul (Timothy Dalton), who heads the neighborhood watch, pooh-poohs as nothing more than unfortunate accidents. The unctuous local lawyer and his tarty girlfriend? Of course they were decapitated in a simple car accident. That fellow blown up in his tasteless McMansion? He was just drunk and trying to make beans and toast: a match plus a gas leak and boom. The crusading local reporter squashed by a piece of falling masonry? Well, that's exactly why the vicar was hosting a benefit for the church's building fund — so such awful mishaps could be averted. Angel's only ally is the police chief's fat, clueless son, PC Danny Butterman (Frost), whose idea of real police work is shaped by American action pictures whose marathon shootouts, reckless car chases and tough-guy snarkiness have nothing to do with policing in Sandford. At least, not until Angel cuts loose. HOT FUZZ's mix of compulsive politeness and head-spattering gore is inevitably less startlingly fresh than SHAUN's, but that only makes it all the more astonishing that the film's poker-faced outrageousness works so well. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh