- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

The barmy Brits behind “Shaun of the Dead” make a citizen’s arrest on cop movies with the new comedy “Hot Fuzz.”

They don’t rough up the suspect. Rather, they throw a brotherly arm around it. Ultimately, they fall prey to the same inanity that brings too many cop flicks to a screeching halt. Until then, “Hot Fuzz” is an unabashed hoot.

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg, who co-wrote along with director Edgar Wright) is the finest cop in all of London. He boasts an arrest rate 400 percent higher than his fellow bobbies. The powers that be think he’s doing too fine a job and “promote” him to a quiet English hamlet where the biggest crime involves trespassing fowl.

He’s been making his fellow officers look foolish, and the department head (Bill Nighy in a witty cameo) won’t stand for it.

Angel couldn’t be more miserable in his new position. He’s bored by the lack of excitement and finds tutoring fellow cops like Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) an unwelcome chore.

Danny’s father, police chief Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), tries his best to make Angel feel at ease, but Angel only perks up when a series of murders grips the sleepy town. Angel’s on the case, dragging the buffoonish Danny along with him, but the rest of the force seems nonplussed by the killings.

Even when Angel sees the murderer, dressed like a two-bit Grim Reaper, he still can’t rally the troops.

The mystery is laid bare in the final reel, which comes complete with more action than a “Lethal Weapon” film festival. Or so it feels to the audience, which up until then is treated to a finely choreographed comedy with credible characters and stinging rejoinders.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that an action homage has to get its hands dirty with real violence, but “Hot Fuzz” goes overboard genuflecting to its influences.

They should have used the Grim Reaper’s sickle to slice away a good 10 minutes of mayhem.

Mr. Wright uses rapid-fire edits to segue between scenes, a tool he used sparingly in “Shaun.” Here, it matches perfectly the lightning pace of the material.

“Shaun’s” international success allowed the creative team to tap some fine actors (Mr. Broadbent) while also drawing humor out of some less likely sources. Who knew ex-James Bond Timothy Dalton could make us howl as a prime suspect in the killings?

The slight Mr. Pegg looks more like an accountant than a crime fighter, but he quickly establishes his bona fides within the first 10 minutes. His rapport with Mr. Frost, which began in the BBC series “Spaced” and continued in “Shaun,” remains a strong suit.

May they film buddy comedies for years to come.

“Hot Fuzz’s” humor may elude those who wouldn’t know Dirty Harry from Riggs and Murtaugh, but this film isn’t for them. It’s for anyone who watched “Bad Boys” or “Point Break” and silently cheered, no matter how ridiculous they knew deep down it all was.

***

TITLE: “Hot Fuzz”

RATING: R (Adult language, gore, extreme action and disturbing images)

CREDITS: Directed by Edgar Wright. Written by Mr. Wright and Simon Pegg.

RUNNING TIME: 121 minutes

WEB SITE: www.hotfuzz.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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