2. Hot Fuzz

Let’s Boo-Boo: Overview

After the success of Shaun of the Dead, it might have been easy for Edgar Wright to just go back to the same well over again. On the surface, his follow-up film Hot Fuzz seems to do just that: both films are centered on a core relationship between characters played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and both films balance comedy with a more familiar, more prone-to-violence genre. But Hot Fuzz, taking loving aim at action movies of the 1980s and 1990s, is instead as good if not better than many entries of the genre it’s skewering. Pegg’s character, Sergeant Nicholas Angel (so named after the music supervisor of the film), is such a good cop that he’s made his superiors in London look bad. Once they demote him to a seemingly peaceful English village, he’s surprised to uncover a vast and despicable conspiracy. Only his new friend and partner Danny Butterman (Frost) can help him take down the conspiracy.

One way in which Hot Fuzz excels is in the eventual reveal that this is as much an action-comedy as it is a spoof of horror-movie cults like in The Wicker Man. Pegg and Frost remain a dynamite duo, and there’s even more distinctive humor here (Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall as the aforementioned Andys are a highlight). While this film isn’t spoofing an automatically gory subgenre, there’s blood aplenty — as when a friendly journalist is offed in a particularly gruesome manner, in broad daylight. And Wright’s ability to reflect and refract action-movie filmmaking without feeling like a carbon copy is genuinely remarkable.

A Slice of Fried Gold: Signature Moment

The final section of Hot Fuzz encompasses more than a single moment, but it’s the high point of a film building up to a crazy level of action. Once Nicholas Angel embraces his inner action-hero badass, letting leash mayhem in the sunny town of Sandford, the movie reaches its apex. Within that sequence, the bit where Nicholas goes head to head with the local priest (Paul Freeman) who first pleads for peace before revealing his own personal arsenal is truly memorable. How else can you upend social mores than by having a cop shoot down a gun-toting priest?

It’s Pointless Arguing With You: Best Quote

My pick for the film’s best quote is one courtesy of Nicholas when he’s play-acting, at a very desperate moment, as the large and monosyllabic henchman Michael “Lurch” Armstrong (Rory McCann of Game of Thrones). As Lurch, he has to answer the nefarious Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton) over walkie-talkie, but do so with a glorified grunt for “yes” or “no”. Or, as Lurch would say, “Yarp” or “…Narp?” “…Narp?” is just brilliant.

By The Power of Greyskull: Most Memorable Reference

With a movie like Hot Fuzz, it would basically be a crime to not call out one of the film’s many references to action films. And while the movie it’s referencing is (to this writer) quite bad, the way this one calls back to Michael Bay’s Bad Boys II is pretty great. After Danny introduces Nicholas to the film, the Bay film’s signature camera-spinning gets quoted when the two men are separated by local affairs. Wright’s clearly not parodying this moment as much as he is quoting it out of love. (But it works better in Hot Fuzz.)

Skip to the End

Hot Fuzz is almost, but not quite, the pinnacle of the Wright/Pegg/Frost films; with Pegg getting to stretch from his work as Shaun, it’s a sign of things to come.

1. The World’s End

Let’s Boo-Boo: Overview

I’ve written about The World’s End before, and at this very website. The culmination of the Cornetto Trilogy is darker and more adult than its premise might suggest. The basic setup, in which a group of old friends meet up in their hometown only to find that it’s being taken over by aliens, allows for more of the hallmarks of Wright’s films. There’s a bevy of references to 90s culture, a great soundtrack, fast-paced dialogue, extreme violence, speedy pacing, and more. But there’s a distinct current of sadness running through The World’s End, directly ending with its lead character, Gary King (Pegg, in what is arguably his best performance to date).

In the early going, The World’s End is the funniest, wittiest film of the bunch here. The script by Wright and Pegg gives each of the core five friends — played by Pegg, Frost, Martin Freeman, Considine, and Eddie Marsan — a distinctive personality and a flair for wordplay. It’s not exactly disappointing once the story kicks into a sci-fi gear after about 40 minutes, but it’s to the film’s credit that it could’ve stayed entirely in the real world and worked. But Wright brings his signature flair to the fight scenes, and the character study of Gary King, who Pegg makes alternately likable and awful, is one of the sharpest parts of any Wright film.

A Slice of Fried Gold: Signature Moment

Something that should be highlighted here is how often Edgar Wright’s films include deliberate visual echoes, whether it’s in Shaun of the Dead, tracking Shaun walk into a convenience store, both before and after zombies descend on London; or here, as the whip-fast prologue foreshadows the way that the fabled pub crawl the Golden Mile will eventually play out over the course of the film. By hinting at the fates of the characters (and the world itself), Wright manages to tip his hand without being too aggressive about it. It’s hard to make such visual echoes without doing it obnoxiously, but Wright’s figured it out.

It’s Pointless Arguing With You: Best Quote

“It’s all I’ve got!” This is the standout quote of The World’s End in spite of not being, y’know, funny. It’s the painful reveal from Gary, as he and Andrew (Frost) make their way to the final pub in the Golden Mile, the eponymous World’s End. Gary tries to be charming, but it’s obvious that his glory days died in high school, and his desperate need to redo the Golden Mile suggests the shaky tether he has on life. Though this comes in the middle of an alien invasion, it’s part of a great, emotional moment between Pegg and Frost, the capper to an emotional catharsis.

By The Power of Greyskull: Most Memorable Reference

The notion of an alien invasion causing the end of the world, in which copies of humans take over for the real McCoy, is a staple of science-fiction horror. The best possible example is Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which gets called out by Wright when we see this film’s “blanks” (AKA the aliens taking over human bodies) screeching just the way the aliens in Body Snatchers do when identifying humans who need to be assimilated. It’s a perfectly fitting and apt tie-in.

Skip to the End

The World’s End is an uncompromising finale to the Cornetto Trilogy, and its willingness to stick with an anti-heroic character to the bitter (or lager) end is a smart choice in the long run.

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