Directed by Edgar Wright
Written by Simon Pegg & Edgar Wright
Starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton
Length 121 minutes
UK Release 14th February
It’s nice to know Simon Pegg enjoys houseplants. Obviously, once we’re hitched these sorts of important decorating decisions need to be addressed. And now for a fully impartial and critical look at the film.
Pegg plays the horrendously monickered Nicholas Angel, the Best Cop Ever. Or not quite, as it’s hinted that following the rules makes Angel a bit heavy handed (and a rubbish boyfriend). Call me a dirty fat socialist if you like but Pegg and Wright seem to be saying a high arrest rate doesn’t necessarily a great cop make, the first of quite a few lefty comments in the film. Sadly, these are the statistics that the Police Force (sorry, Service) apparently like to see, Angel is making his less high-achieving colleagues look lazy, and so he’s subsequently shipped off to the Gloucestershire village of Sandford, where you blow up a tree, and use the leaves to make a dress for your wife who's also your brother. Possibly.
It’s always hard when a load of bumbling, inbred villagers, who are mocked on screen, constituted the town one grew up in. Well, versions of them. I didn’t grow up with Jim Broadbent. However, the underage drinking scene (in the film; there isn’t a ‘scene’ like an acid jazz scene or a performance art scene, thank Christ) was hideously reminiscent of being 15 and sneaking into The George behind Anthea Beasant’s older brother to try and get a Malibu and coke. Those were the days, etc. This is actually where the one slip up of the film happens: there is a close up of the fountain in Sandford’s village square. On it are the names of the neighbourhood watch members (who are BAD) and a red painted number ‘9’. This is referred to as graffiti, but then completely disregarded for the rest of the film, a rare aberration for such normally meticulous filmmakers…
Other than that, there’s not much to complain about. The relationship between Pegg and Frost is genuinely heartwarming. It's patently obvious they’re best mates, and, without being too sappy (this reviewer is hard nosed and emotionless), it really adds to the film. The gore/death scenes that take over the second half are balanced well by the friendship, and would probably seem very overdone and detached otherwise.
By far the best moment is the supermarket scene in which Olivia Coleman lays out a female shop assistant with a yellow slippery floor sign and says something along the lines of ‘Nothing like a bit of girl-on-girl!’ Bizarrely, her constantly quipping village-bike act is never tired and I’m still not sure why. I found Pegg’s sincere attitude towards female officers very refreshing, and the sexism directed at Coleman a little difficult (although they also lampoon the mentally retarded, so it’s hardly a PC-for-all), yet I think it’s her accomplished comic timing and acting skills that bring it off. Even the ‘manpower’ gag at the end doesn’t feel too forced, and it’s nice to see PC Angel removing the giant iron rod from his rectum (which doesn’t even happen when he uses his Japanese Peace Lily to smash an inbred trolley assistant sent to kill him over the head – I was expecting some sort of Apocalypse Now-style montage with Angel drinking gin and smearing Church fete raspberry compote on his naked torso, providing a metaphor for his emotional pupation coming to an end. Maybe next time). However, what the ‘manpower’ gag also celebrates is Angel losing his modern, equal opps ways (one of the positives of his police service training) for some pretty cheap country bumpkin humour. All in the best possible taste.
Speaking of the supporting cast, a quick run through; Timothy Dalton is utterly superb, and his choice of driving music should be applauded. Kevin Eldon is wasted, and much more should have been made of the excellent Anne Reid. Jim Broadbent is great but goes on too long and doesn’t come off nearly loony enough during the film to merit his total loss of sandwich AND crisps from any lunchbox he previously owned towards the end. Bill Bailey and twin, however, is an awesome gag and Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan and Bill Nighy make a great threesome. Oh, and Marsha was in it, running a pub (why doesn’t she do this in Spaced?! New series please!) and being fifty three.
On the directorial side, Wright is in the best form of his career. The camera work is utterly accomplished and there’s plenty of the best gore I’ve ever seen. One death in particular is hideously and graphically stunning and he should get fifteen Oscars for it.
The in jokes for Shaun/Spaced fans are there, if a little overdone on the Cornetto side of things; however the plot, borrowed as it is, still works well, and the message to the ASBO demanding, Telegraph reading, Tory voting, Springer Spaniel owners out there is abundantly clear: some hood wearing individuals are much more dangerous than others. I’d rather have my phone nicked any day over some pruning shears in the gullet. In fact, I think I’ll start hanging around the pound shops in Mornington Cresent a bit more. If this film has taught me nothing else it’s that, for god’s sake, don’t go to Waitrose unarmed.
Overall, it wasn’t, for me at least, as good as Shaun (possibly because it didn’t involved the world as we know it ending, so I would clearly have to stay in my hideous job), and could have done with a love interest – Pegg and Frost do make eyes at each other at the end, but it’s clear they’re not up for bum action, and it would have been nice to have had at least one normal, sane, female involved who didn’t have a Benny Hill complex or a Kalashnikov in her shopper. Still, a cracking film that will hopefully put Pegg and Wright firmly on the map, where they deserve to be; somewhere in the middle, with good transport links, and an international airport.