Hot Fuzz (2007)

Proper Action and Sh*t

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

Hot Fuzz is my favourite comedy of the new millennium as well as in my top 5 favourite films of said era. I already thought Shaun of the Dead itself was a perfect film yet Hot Fuzz is even better. There are so many film and pop culture references, inside jokes and foreshadowing ranging from the subtle to the more obvious. Just how long does it take to write a movie this layered? It’s like Bad Boys meets The Vicar of Dibley meets The Wicker Man. British comedy has long been about quality over quantity, just look at the small episode count of British sitcoms or films by Aardman Animations which employee a similar style of humour to Hot Fuzz; there is more comedy in this one film than several Hollywood comedies combined. The pacing and consistency of the jokes in Hot Fuzz are perfect, never is there more than 10 seconds that I’m not laughing. For me, the best laugh was saved until the end when the swan attacks the police officer in the car.

Those moments when Danny (Nick Frost) asks Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) about films he has seen; just how many times have I been in this situation in real life when someone names films one by one (usually junk food films) and when you say you haven’t seen one they keep going onto you about it. Angel himself manages to be a likable character despite his overt political correctness but for me, Timothy Dalton steals the show. He really is one of the last of his kind as a Shakespearean trained actor who can play these types of debonair villains; here he just has the smuggest look on his face.

It’s easy for a film to mock bureaucracy but this seems to be one film which speaks in its favour, then again how many films can make the act of filling out paperwork look exciting. The film’s use of fascism and the concept of “The Greater Good” (the greater good!) as a theme surprisingly is highly thought-provoking.

Hot Fuzz satirizes action movies by being grounded in reality and with Danny’s misconceptions between fantasy and reality yet at the same time also celebrates them. Having an action movie with British police officers, set in a small English town and full of Hollywood action movie tropes; the concept works on so many levels – likely because there doesn’t exist a tradition of cop movies in the UK. Plus having the bad guy’s hideout being an outlet for an actual British supermarket chain is another stroke of brilliance. There’s just something refreshing and satisfying watching these Hollywood clichés spoofed in a British manner. Action movies have never been a favourite genre of mine, especially this brand of shaky cam, fast cut action, but the action scenes here are legitimately edge of your seat thrilling. The film’s use of CGI blood is my only complaint but when a film is this amazing I can look past this one flaw. Thank you, Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg for improving the greater good of British cinema (the greater good!).

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The Divorce of Lady X (1938)

Heathcliff and Cathy’s Other Film

The Divorce of Lady X stands out from other screwball comedies for several reasons. Firstly it’s one of the few screwball comedies filmed in Technicolor which is complemented by the complimented by the luscious set design and brightly coloured ladies costume design. I do love that night club with its dreamlike painted backdrops as well as the miniature work of Trafalgar Square for the film’s opening shots (even if there are a bunch of empty buses driving). Second, it’s the only British screwball comedy I’ve come across to date, putting a British spin on this distinctly American genre. It’s fun watching typical screwball situations with an entirely British cast, set in Britain and with very British lines of dialogue (“You got marmalade all over your newspaper”).

Third and by far most importantly in what has to rank as one of the most bizarre of pre-stardom roles, it stars Laurence Oliver. Yes, the master of Shakespearean tragedy, perhaps the most respected and dignified actor of the 20th century as a stuffy gent who at first is delightedly full of himself but soon gets into all sorts of crazy shenanigans at the mercy of a screwy dame.  Merle Oberon plays one of the most ruthlessly manipulative characters I’ve seen in any film as she is able to weasel her way to get anything out of this man – the type of dame who destroys civilisations. Thus it doesn’t come as a surprise that Oliver goes head over heels for her despite all the anguish she causes him, likewise her previously having four husbands doesn’t help matters (also, that improvised cape made from a bedsheet she wears is such a brilliant touch). The chemistry between the performers works seamlessly and is aided by the sexual tension and undertones.

The first act of The Divorce of Lady X is one big farcical sequence centered around the sexual politics of the time; the fact that an unmarried man and woman sleeping in the same room was considered scandalous, even if there are two separate beds. This ties in nicely with how film critic Andrew Sarris defines the screwball comedy genre, “a sex comedy without the sex”.