Hot Fuzz (2007)
Starring: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy
Directed By: Edgar Wright
Why it made the list: Shaun of the Dead (an honourable mention on this list) gets the most attention, and if you go by pop cultural significance, it deserves the nod (it and fellow honourable mention 28 Days Later are probably most responsible for the zombie renaissance of the past few years, and given that much of the recent zombie appreciation is based in irony, I’d say Shaun is most important). But for my money, Hot Fuzz is the superior film; a near perfect parody of action films from the past 20 years that manages to be as kick-ass as many of the films it parodies. It accomplishes this by approaching its targets with affection rather than sneering derision, serving as much as an homage as spoof.
It does this not only through direct referencing films like Point Break and Bad Boys II, or imitating ridiculous action film sequences, but also by using action filming and editing techniques and applying them to mundane things like paperwork. It’s a fun wink to the audience, and a hallmark of director Edgar Wright and stars/collaborators Simon Pegg and Nick Frost going back to their days on Spaced (where they’d dabble in a new genre on a weekly basis). What separates this film from other comedies of the decade to get it ranked so highly is how unbelievably clever it is. Every bit of the film, no matter how seemingly insignificant, plays a part in its resolution. Offhand comments get comedic payoffs later, while items on walls end up coming into play later.
It takes multiple viewings to discover just how intelligently all the silliness on screen is put together, making Hot Fuzz a rarity for me: the comedy that gets better with every viewing. At its heart, comedy is a visceral experience: you see/hear something you’ve never experienced before and an involuntary response is elicited. Horror shockfests are the same way. But the thing is, the laughs and shocks are never as good as they are the first time, because the element of surprise is eliminated. A well told joke can remain funny after you’ve heard the punchline, but it’ll never evoke the same gut reaction. As a result, most comedies have limited replay value for me. Sure, if I enjoy spending time with the characters, I’ll rewatch them with a smile even if I’m not laughing as hard as I once did, but generally, each viewing is a pale reflection of the original experience.
With Hot Fuzz, I may not laugh as hard as I did when watching in theatres, but my appreciation only grows for the precision of Wright and Pegg’s screenplay. With each subsequent viewing, I pick up on another detail that they’ve deftly incorporated into the overall picture and marvel at their dedication to a genre that is usually very forgiving of the details as long as you bring the funny. Hot Fuzz does both in spades.
Significant scene: I’m cheating a bit here, by going with more than a scene. The entire final act is difficult to separate into scenes, and really must be described as a whole. This is where all the foundation Wright and Pegg lay down in the first two-thirds of the film pay off, in a glorious sequence of action and comedy that references not only the iconic moments of action films past, but also seemingly everything that’s happened in the film up to this point.
There’s the obvious moments, like the Point Break callback or the reappearance of the swan (probably the biggest laugh for me the first go round). Then there’s the slightly more obscure moments, like the armed farmer (and his mum!), or the hoodies crashing the shop, signalling a well put together action comedy. Then there the TRULY obscure jokes that even the most attentive viewer would miss the first go round, like Aaron A. Aaronson in the model village, that reveal this to be a film for and by true obsessives. That they accomplish this level of detail within a no-holds-barred, adrenaline-fueled thrill ride of a climax that is as exciting as it is hilarious is something to be celebrated far more than I feel this film is. Maybe people just haven’t watched it enough to realize it.
25. Up (2009)
24. The Hurt Locker (2009)
23. Lost in Translation (2003)
22. The Bourne Supremacy (2004)
21. The Bourne Identity (2002)
20. Serenity (2005)
19. Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
18. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
17. Brokeback Mountain (2005)