Until it goes batshit crazy, Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz is a slightly underwhelming, if occasionally hilarious, film. [Cormac: The way of the world is to bloom and to flower and die but in the affairs of men there is no waning and the noon of his expression signals the onset of night.] The fellows that brought us 2004’s Shaun of the Dead are connoisseurs of American action movie franchises and with Hot Fuzz they set out to show their reverence for this generally ridiculous genre. Yet in this homage is the principal problem of the first half of the film: instead of truly celebrating blockbuster idiocy, they’ve essentially made one of their own (and with much less action.) [Cormac: All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery and a residue of nameless rage.]

I came into Hot Fuzz having seen many of the ’90s explosion extravaganzas, loving some and hating others; I’m certainly familiar with the movies, but hardly obsessed. I can see Hot Fuzz being celebrated by those who consider Michael Bay the pinnacle of craptastic entertainment and obsess accordingly, or by those who are relatively unfamiliar with American action movies. Indeed, the film is already a giant success in the UK. [Cormac: What do you say to a man who by his own admission has no soul? Why would you say anything?] For the rest of us, Hot Fuzz is a stitch away from endless fun. That is, until it goes batshit crazy.

Hot Fuzz follows by-the-book police sergeant Nicholas Angel (Shaun of the Dead’s Simon Pegg) as he is dumped by his witty girlfriend (a masked Cate Blanchett) and shipped off to a sleepy burg named Sandford [Cormac: An old chronicle. To seek out the upright. No fall but preceded by a declination.], essentially for being so good at his job that the rest of London’s cops look bad by comparison. [Cormac: Upright to what? Something nameless in the night, lode or matrix.] Angel is such a stickler that, in a very funny scene, he arrests nearly half of the town’s young folk before he has officially begun work in Sandford. [Cormac: To which he and the stars were common satellite.]

Of course, his big-city intensity makes him stand out among the excessively cheery townspeople, including Jim Broadbent as the jolly police chief and an energetic Timothy Dalton as a suspicious supermarket owner. Both of whom are members of a seemingly mundane group of village elders called the “Neighbourhood Watch Anonymous.” Even though people start dying gruesome deaths all around the town, the “NWA” (hahaha) continues to insist that these fatalities are mere accident. Predictably, Angel smells trouble, and the middle section of the film is concerned with his attempts to solve the ongoing mystery. [Cormac: The city beset by a thing unknown and will it come from forest or sea? The murengers have walled the pale, the gates are shut, but lo the thing’s inside and can you guess his shape?]

The relationship with American action movies is developed gradually, as Angel is paired with the portly Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, Pegg’s compadre from Shaun of the Dead), a grown man with a closet full of action DVDs. He pesters Angel about whether or not he’s fired his gun while in high-speed pursuit, or fired his gun while diving sideways through the air, or fired his gun in any other way that Will Smith or Bruce Willis might have accomplished. [Cormac: Look around you, he said. There is no prophet in the earth’s long chronicle who’s not honored here today. Whatever form you spoke of you were right.] Frost and Pegg make a fine comedic pair; their timing often makes up for the mediocre storyline.

The visual flair with which Wright directs—using the quick cuts that replicate the short attention span of Danny’s treasured action films—similarly staves off mediocrity. Herein lies the problem: it’s just too much like all those American blockbusters. Yes, it’s humorous and self-aware, but so is every movie that centers on a wisecracking intergalactic hero. [Cormac: It’s snowing, the boy said. He looked at the sky.] Yes, it does away with the “hero gets the girl” subplot, but as action movies get louder and sillier, the love stories have vanished from those too. [Cormac: A single grey flake sifting down.] Hot Fuzz is essentially an intelligent but mundane entry into the world of buddy-cop action-adventure comedies, before it goes off the deep end. [Cormac: He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of Christendom.]

Aside from the pleasant lead performances, snappy directing and a few particularly amusing scenes, there are other elements that make the first half of Hot Fuzz stand out. There’s the fact that co-writers Pegg and Wright have seen enough action movies to know that the interaction between films’ male leads are usually quite homoerotic and usually quite unintentionally so. In Hot Fuzz, Pegg and Wright do some of their more inspired work in tweaking male-male relationships, to the point that we occasionally feel as if Angel and Danny are close to ripping each others’ clothes off. (The faux-emotional background music doesn’t hurt.) Pegg and Wright are clearly well-versed in the genre to which they’re adding a small chapter, and in the homoerotic scenes (and in the cameos, and the swan sequences), we see a degree of wit that is otherwise missing from Hot Fuzz…Until it goes out-of-its-mind, balls-to-the-wall, sticks-every-landing, smack-you-in-the-face, priest-shooting, facial-impaling crazy. Allow me to explain.

You see, as all action heroes do, Angel almost gives up at one point, but after a moment of inspiration, he decides he needs to kick some ass, and not just a little bit of ass, but as much ass as Clint and Bruce and Sly have kicked in entire movies—within the span of twenty-five minutes. [Cormac: Before man was, war waited for him. The ultimate trade awaiting its ultimate practioner.] Unlike the earlier scenes of the picture, watching the crazy part of Hot Fuzz is invigorating, exciting, and, as a matter of fact, constantly surprising. [Cormac: Men are born for games. Nothing else.] Because of how formulaic the buddy-cop comedy genre has become, I haven’t actually found myself startled during such a movie for the better part of a decade. Until now. [Cormac: War is the ultimate game because war is at last a forcing of the unity of existence. War is god.]

The entire village of Sandford is as vacant as a John Ford western when the good guys face off against the bad guys, including a farmer, a doctor, and priest who takes the Lord’s name in vain after being shot. [Cormac: The cold and the silence. The ashes of the late world carried on the bleak and temporal winds to and fro in the void.] They don’t try to force us to care about the villains, as there is, by this point, absolutely no doubt about their guilt. We are allowed to revel in the type of violence often criticized by watchdog groups, so cleverly ridiculous here that such condemnation would be irrelevant. [Cormac: Carried forth and scattered and carried forth again.] In life, seeing an old woman get a roundhouse kick to the face is probably one of those things you’re not meant to enjoy, but it most certainly has its place in Hot Fuzz. So do Pegg speaking in an Eastwood growl, ill-tempered swans breaking the arms of perpetrators, and the aforementioned facial-impaling. [Cormac: Everything uncoupled from its shoring. Unsupported in the ashen air.] It’s probably not the most gruesome thing you’ve ever seen in a movie, but it’s pretty close. And in the out-of-its-mind finale of Hot Fuzz, it somehow works very well. [Cormac: Sustained by a breath, trembling and brief.]

This is basically what it comes down to: those who obsess over action flicks and those who’ve never really seen any will probably get a kick out of the entire thing, while those of us in the middle will be mildly amused for most of the film’s running time, until the action explodes. The only way you won’t enjoy the end of the movie (which is legitimately worth the price of admission on its own) is if you actually have a problem with fun. [Hal: I laughed, didn’t I?] When Hot Fuzz goes off the deep end, it becomes a different picture, one that I wish Pegg and Wright had made on its own. But because it does go batshit crazy – batshit crazier than almost any other picture in recent memory– I can’t slam the film too hard, and I wish more movies were bold enough to show us old women getting kicked in the face. [Cormac: When I came into your life your life was over. It had a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is the end.]