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Sunday, January 25, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 24.0° F  Partly Cloudy
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Pretty lethal weapon

Police Academy, Super Troopers, Reno 911 - there isn't exactly a shortage of cop-shop spoofs, but Hot Fuzz has a couple of things to recommend it. One, it's set in England, where cops are called bobbies and wear those cute little helmets. Two, it's made with a lot of wit and intelligence. These are the guys who brought us Shaun of the Dead, which had zombies chewing on our funny bones while the ever-polite inhabitants of a London suburb tried to maintain their stiff upper lips. And if the premise isn't quite as promising this time around, it still plays off the comic discrepancy between the quotidian and the extraordinary, the quaint and the grisly.

Simon Pegg, who looks like David Caruso's young­er, sweeter brother, returns as Nicholas Angel, a strictly-by-the-books, eager-beaver super-cop who gets assigned to a remote village because his arrest record is embarrassing the rest of the London police force. So it's kind of like having Dirty Harry move to Mayberry, and there's quite a lot of fun to be had as Nicholas adjusts to life in the slow lane. (The movie's tag line: "Big Cops. Small Town. Moderate Violence.") He's assigned a partner (Nick Frost) who makes Barney Fife look like Eliot Ness, and their first perp is an escaped swan. But maybe there's more to this place than meets the eye. Nicholas soon notices that its alarmingly low murder rate is matched by an alarmingly high accidental-death rate.

"Forget it, Nicholas, it's Sandford," he's told when the peaceful little village gets exposed for the police state it really is. The allusion to Chinatown is duly noted, and Hot Fuzz is in fine form as long as it sticks to its knitting - i.e., blasting away at those cozy stereotypes about the English countryside. But director Edgar Wright, who co-wrote the script with Pegg, allows his Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys parody/homage to get away from him. The last third of the movie is as explosively over-the-top as the action-traction movies it's evoking, and it finally wears you out. Only later, after the noise has died down, do you appreciate how well the filmmakers have grafted a British sense of humor onto something so quintessentially American.

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