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Brit Comedies: Part 3     

Posted by Katherine Putnam on April 10th, 2010

“Ever fired your gun in the air and yelled, ‘Aaaaaaaah’?”
Normally I try to post a few Bolivia updates between film posts, but this one just can’t wait. Of all my favorite British comedies, Hot Fuzz is by far my absolute favorite. There are moments when I sit back and try to recall what life was like before I saw Hot Fuzz but as soon as the first wispy memory of that bleak, dark, hollow time begins to return I force myself to stop and focus on the cinematic bliss that comes after experiencing this film. While some of you may be familiar with Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s 2004 comedy classic Shaun of the Dead (starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) and will therefore have an inkling of the comedic gold ahead of you, I’d like to take this moment to suggest that all of you prepare yourselves because “that [was] nothing man, this is about to go off!”

“Well, I couldn’t see his face, could I? I’m not made of eyes!”

“Sergeant Butterman, the little hand says it’s time to rock and roll!”Hot Fuzz follows Sergeant Nicholas Angel, one of London’s finest police officers, who is transferred from the big city to the sleepy country town of Sandford when his numerous accomplishments begin to make his coworkers look bad. Although Angel initially rebels against the transfer, believing his considerable skills will be wasted on peaceful Sandford, he soon discovers that all in Sandford is not as it seems.

Now if you recall, when writing about Death at a Funeral I recounted advising a friend to stick it out through all the awkward moments for the payoff; explaining that all those moments and jokes work together to create a comedic whole. If that is true for Death at a Funeral then it is doubly, triply, quadruply true for Hot Fuzz. Hot Fuzz is one of those great films where nothing is random, where every joke, every scene, every little thrown out line is tied together by the end of the movie. I could watch Hot Fuzz dozens of times and still not catch all the clues and foreshadowing; I have watched Hot Fuzz close to a dozen times and each time I notice yet another line that ties into a joke or event later in the movie.

In these posts I strive to avoid leaking spoilers for any who have not seen the films I’m recommending, but I can’t resist giving a few brief examples of the tie ins referenced above. For those who haven’t watched Hot Fuzz yet, keep your eyes peeled and ears open for the following:

1) The swan. This bit seemed so random at first, but I promise that it plays an important role before the movie ends.
2) All the questions Danny (Nick Frost) asks Nicholas (Simon Pegg) early in the movie: “Have you ever fired two guns whilst jumping through the air? Have you ever fired one gun whilst jumping through the air? Ever been in high-speed pursuit? Have you ever fired a gun whilst in high speed pursuit?” See if you notice why this part is important.
3) “There is no way you can perpetrate that amount of carnage and mayhem and not incur a considerable amount of paperwork.”
4) The joke about starting at the beginning of the phonebook with “Aaron A. Aaronson.” Like the swan, this isn’t a one off joke.
5) Or my favorite lines: “Everyone and their mum is packin’ round here!” “Like who?” “Farmers.” “Who else?” “Farmers’ mums.”

While still on the subjects of the writing and details to keep a look out for I’ll share a bit of trivia. Per IMDb, in early drafts of the script Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) had a love interest named Victoria. By the final draft the love interest plot line had been dropped and Victoria cut from the script; however, most of her dialogue remained and was (in many cases) given to Danny (Nick Frost) without any changes! Re-watching the film after finding this out it was quite easy to spot the exchanges that ought to have been between Nicholas and Victoria. I greatly appreciate Nick Frost’s delivery in these scenes; he takes the awkward, displaced dialogue and turns it into a great tongue-in-cheek moment.

I promised that in this post I would talk about more than just the writing and acting, even though those are often my favorite aspects of a film (and the aspects that I know the most about). However, one does not have to be a film major (or maker) to recognize the amazing film editing and sound editing in this movie. When watching the opening sequence for the first time I was blown away by the rapid cuts from shot to shot and angle to angle. Not only were the sequences perfectly timed to fit the voice over monologue but the pace set by the editing provided an early introduction to the tongue-in-cheek humor found in this action and crime drama parody. Much of the film editing and sound editing are simply examples of good editing: they keep up the proper pace of the film, keep up visual and auditory interest, reinforce the storyline and provide a visually and auditorily well rounded scene. However, in some cases it’s the editing that adds that extra spark or joke to a scene. The opening sequence is one great example of above average editing. Another example is found during a brief moment when actor Timothy Dalton breaks the fourth wall and looks directly into the camera while making a toast; this brief glance is synchronized with the sound of a cash register “ching.” For an example of exemplary use of diegetic sound (both thematically and as a recurring gag), pay attention to the songs playing on the cars stereos during various scenes; the lyrics often parallel some aspect of the scene.

There is so much more I would like to say about Hot Fuzz, but so little that I can say without giving away too many spoilers and jokes. So please, go watch Hot Fuzz so we can freely discuss the brilliance of this exquisitely crafted parody. (Warning for those who care: strong language, sexual references and a considerable amount of “carnage and mayhem.”)


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