Cast/Crew: Directed by Edgar Wright, written by Wright and Simon Pegg, starring Pegg & Nick Frost (and a cast of well-known English actors)
Plot: By-the-book, rigid London PC Nick Angel is so effective at his job it’s making the Met Police look bad, so they promote & ship him off to the sleepy countryside village of Sandford. Murders labelled as ‘accidents’ start piling up.
• Part 2 of the “three flavours Cornetto trilogy”, 3 films by Wright & Pegg, blue/original flavour coming after Shaun of the Dead (red/strawberry) and The World’s End (green/mint).
• This is also the most financially successful of the three, with a budget of $12m and bringing in over $80m.
• The movie is replete with famous British actors including Jim Broadbent, Bill Bailey, Timothy Dalton (Welsh), Rory McCann aka the Hound (Scottish), with a ton of great-to-see-them cameos including Stephen Merchant, Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan (Alan Partridge – even his date ‘Jill’/Julia Deakin has a few scenes), Bill Nighy, Peter Jackson (as a guy dressed as Father Christmas), Cate Blanchett (Angel’s ex-gf).
• It’s very cool that there’s a lot of personal touches in the production – Nick Angel is the name of the music supervisor; the film was shot in Wright’s hometown of Wells in Somerset (although the Cathedral was removed so it would be a village, not a city); Wright worked at the Somerfield supermarket used in the film and his & Pegg’s mums appear as Best Village judges at the end of the film.
Thoughts on the film:
• This is a straight-faced satire/parody/homage to buddy cop movies, something foreign to the British Isles (I can’t really count 1992 Sci-Fi film “Split Second”, and Irish comedy “The Guard” coming 4 years after this). Making an English buddy shoot-em-up would already be seen as humorous and not be taken seriously, so Wright & Pegg built on that by setting it in a quiet, rural village with OAPs as villains. It fits perfectly with their style.
• You can see the absolute reverence they pay to buddy cop movies in the film, with the general thrust of the movie, and the characters literally sit down and watch two of them, and shots/lines are later used (and are so awesome) – like the amazing Bad Boys II camera spinning around them shot.
• Wright’s signature use of quick cuts to get the point across is excellent. It fits with wanting to be an action movie, and has been stylishly upgraded with flashes of light and clever fading. Something I also love is the use of visual gags, like Danny (Frost) insistently offering a slice of cake to the side of Angel’s head, or shouting “Mothers!” then cut to a shot of mothers with prams. The quick cuts showing Angel travelling to Somerset (losing reception in his phone) is gorgeous. There’s tons of subtle nuances added throughout the film.
• You can really sense the frustration of Angel trying to do his job in the overwhelmingly lackadaisical attitude of the townspeople and the police force (sorry, “service”, offical vocab guidelines state that “force” is too aggressive) as they are all seen constantly eating and break for lunch (and a pint) at 11:30 on his first day. The Andys do a terrific job of being unlikeable, sarcastic pricks that constantly frustrate Angel. [Noting the milk on his mustache] “You have a mustache.” “I know.”
• Hilariously the opposing force is called the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance, or NWA.
• Shaun of the Dead references: a shot of “Zombies’ Party” DVD, the Spanish/Portugese version of Shaun of the Dead, and it’s cricket bat is hiding in the background in the CCTV room. There’s also a bit of ‘people watching’ where Frost tells Pegg the backstories of passers-by. Cornettos too, lots of actors from the first film including “Pete” Peter Serafinowicz “Oi! Prick! …He’s not home.” has a one shot cameo. Frost’s trick with the ketchup packet, and of course, the jumping over fences part which will never not be funny! Pegg had a stunt double do the final somersault but Frost did his own stunt (falling through the fence) and looked back at the camera to make sure you knew!
• This film hinges on the relationship between Pegg & Frost. Whilst “Shaun” was about two flatmates who were friends since Primary School, constantly buzzing off each other, this one is more formal and gradually becomes warmer. Sgt. Angel is successful, but stifled and dry, whilst Frost is mostly the same (although a much cleaner version and has a job) – the result is that we don’t really get any laddish/great mate humour; which is fine but much less enjoyable/funny than in Shaun.
• Frost’s character immediately puts Pegg’s on a pedestal (when he finds out he shot a guy), regurgitating police vernacular and lines to make himself look smarter (which is funny); later Angel learns to relax and takes on Danny’s mannerisms. We can’t accept gifts from someone we’ve officially rebuked so *raspberries with two fingers up* jog on!
• Not minding underage teens/kids in a pub is very rural mentality. “When you’re birthday?” “22nd of February.” “What year?” “Every year.”
• It takes 38 minutes for the plotline to kick into gear, with a Scream-like killer (a figure in a hooded black cloak killing people in a variety of interesting/gory ways). Unfortunately it’s ridiculousness makes everything a bit trivial, and with a less-friendly relationship between Frost and Pegg (to me) this time round it’s not that engaging. Who cares if these random villagers are getting killed?
• The final action set-piece is quite impressive, and Angel re-appearing on a white horse, stocked to the gills with weapons is very cool. The good guys kill indirectly, usually as the result of a baddie’s mistake (eg tripping/stealing a car with a goose in it/standing underneath an open bear trap!)
• The fight scene in a model town is a brilliant gimmick (and metaphor, fighting over the village) but thought it was vastly underused – they could done way more gags with it.
• The soundtrack keeps a very low profile, usually just quick snippets but what is there is all good stuff. You’d probably only recall the end credits song (Supergrass’ Caught By The Fuzz)
• One nitpick that didn’t sit well with me was how OAPs could outrun a young, fit policeman. I suppose the Chav in the purple tracksuit could, but definitely not pensioners! That and I don’t get why kids would help Angel. Perhaps these were good kids as opposed to the underage drinkers/shoplifters.
Overall: A very well made English satire of buddy cop films. It’s impact will depend on how much you like action films. I didn’t find knocking off villagers to be all that important and Pegg & Frost’s relationship is different (in keeping with the story) so overall it’s an extremely tight, flashy entry, but as a horror fan, and a mates-insulting-each-other fan, I much prefer Shaun of the Dead. That said I definitely recommend watching!
Shaun of the Dead Review
Next up: The World’s End review!