Is anyone else vaguely surprised that I’m reviewing this? I am. I never thought I’d even type that particular phrase. But a friend of mine living in England (Hi, JP!) who therefore saw this movie some time ago said that I should give it a try, and I did, and here we are. And I actually really liked it.
Now, I’m not normally one for the physical or gross comedy, and there’s some of both in this film. (Actually, there are rather a lot of gross moments, so be warned.) Somehow, though, they carry it off. They take just about every good stunt and memorable moment you’ve ever seen in any action movie or cop flick — even a low-budget horror film or two — turn it upside down and take it for a spin, and it’s really a fun trip.
The stars are Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Sgt. Nick Angel and PC Danny Butterman, respectively; and yes, they were also the stars of Shaun of the Dead. It’s the camaraderie between them that makes this movie work, I think. They even manage to be the romantic couple of the film, without being anything more than platonic.
Nick Angel is Supercop. No, literally — he has nine commendations, excels at everything from karate to high-speed pursuit to chess, and has an arrest record 400% better than any of his colleagues on the London police force. (Wait, that’s police service now, as Nick reminds us. Force sounds too aggressive.) So good for London, right? Everyone’s glad to have him around? Well, no. This is headstand number one that gets us into the plot — he’s making everyone else look bad, as Bill Nighy (Love, Actually, and I hear he’ll be in Pirates of the Caribbean III, if you’re into that sort of thing) explains in a nice little cameo as the Chief Inspector. Therefore, Nick is off to the quiet, pleasant village of Sandford, in Gloustershire, where there hasn’t been a recorded murder in twenty years. And yes, there’s a reason why they say ‘recorded’.
Sandford has been voted the Nicest Village in England for more years running than anyone cares to count, but on his first day Nick still manages to round up several hardened criminals, though most of them are actually teenagers who just shouldn’t have been drinking. Oh, and one of them is Danny Butterman, son of the local Chief Inspector (Jim Broadbent) and Nick’s new partner. But no one seems to mind, least of all Danny himself, and he and Nick are soon fast friends. Well, at first it’s more that action-movie addict Danny follows Nick like a lost puppy, asking what cool police stunts he’s done and how hard it is to make someone’s head explode, but they do eventually make it to fast friends.
|Danny gets to live his dream of flying through the air whilst firing a gun.|
Nick is soon convinced that Sandford is not at all a safe place to live, but no one else seems to believe him — after all, everyone’s so happy, some of them aggressively so — like Timothy Dalton, here a much tougher guy than he ever was as James Bond. But after several gruesome deaths (I can’t even begin to choose a most gruesome), he gets Danny to believe, at least, and then things go absolutely wild.
It’s also hard to choose a funniest moment, which does a lot to make up for all the gruesome. There’s a hilarious scene where our heroes go out to an isolated farm to investigate the terrible crime of unauthorized hedge-trimming, and city boy Nick has to have the farmer’s thick accent filtered through two layers of translation before he can understand it. I’ve seen lots of British TV and movies, so I usually do okay with accents, but Gloucestershire accents aren’t easy. Maybe it’s because they’re so close to Wales. Also watch for a hysterical fight scene in a half-scale model of Sandford. For extra points, see if you can identify the actress playing Janine, the girlfriend who broke up with Nick because he was married to his job. And possibly a little too fond of his Japanese peace lily. Yes, that is a houseplant.
Three and three-quarter idols for this one. I had to dock a quarter idol for the horrific deaths, which just didn’t do anything for me, but it was a lot, lot funnier than I expected from those previews. The runaway swan (Elvis) is one of the best running jokes I’ve ever seen. I just want to know who the swan wrangler was, because I hear they can break a man’s arm. The moral of the story? Never judge by appearances. Also, never assume that a WWII sea mine is defused.