Rated: Rated MA 15+ (strong violence, strong coarse language).
The Americans have regularly tried to spoof popular movie genres. They come up with Scary Movie, Date Movie, Epic Movie. They are parodies, usually fairly crass and obvious, of recent popular films. In the past, Leslie Nielsen used to appear is send-ups of particular genres: Naked Gun (TV police shows) Repossessed (exorcisms!), Wrongfully Accused (court murder mysteries), Spy Hard (James Bond and co). They were corny but amusing with Nielsen being the main drawcard. Mel Brooks began well with Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, Silent Movie and High Anxiety but his Robin Hood and Dracula spoofs were sometimes quite lame.
A few years ago, British actor Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright came up with a spoof of the living dead genre, Shawn of the Dead. They played it for all it was worth - and more. They took the genre seriously but enjoyed doing the spoof, taking many of the conventions to their logical illogical conclusions. Shawn of the Dead was grotesque in a very funny way.
The police thrillers, the buddy cops and the serial killer might seem obvious targets for spoof. And so they are. But here are Pegg and Wright again. And they are successful again. This is a very enjoyable (continual smiles more than lots of belly laughs) and comically exaggerated take on American cops, British bobbies and the dark side of a Miss Marple village. (And they probably had more than one eye on The Wicker Man for their basic plot.)
Simon Pegg has been very wise to play his role straight even when he is in the most ludicrous of situations. He is the perfectionist, the humourless perfectionist, who has shown up the London forces because he is so successful at apprehending criminals and making the rest look lackadaisical. (Bill Nighy, Martin Freeman and Steve Coogan have a good cameo condemning him and exiling him to a country town.) Pegg sustains his character well throughout and when he has to become that bit more heroic and that big bit more human.
What a village. Everything seems so nice, except the young thugs around the place. The local committee keep things in order. And a lot of character actors from the British screen appear here. You need to look closely and you will find Edward Woodward, Billie Whitelaw, Paul Freeman and others. Jim Broadbent, with hearty tones, is the local police chief. Nick Frost is his large and ineffectual policeman son. He has to partner Pegg and they form a kind of Laurel and Hardy (maybe more Abbott and Costello) team. And Timothy Dalton is there as the smarmy, smiling owner of the supermarket.
When the serial killer starts striking, Pegg goes into action. Once again, the writers seem to have been looking at Agatha Christie novels and Murder on the Orient Express for plotlines which work quite nicely and give the opportunity for stunt work, comic mayhem, some gore and heroics.
Shawn of the Dead and Hot Fuzz make a good track record for what Pegg and Wright do next.
Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.