April 21st, 2007

Admit One

Let me tell you a story about Simon, Edgar and Nick.

Simon, Edgar and Nick are the boys in the neighborhood who are lifelong chums and, when they're not riding around on their bikes popping wheelies and seeing who can skid in the sand the longest without wiping out, they're hanging out in a tree fort in Nick's backyard.

One summer, Simon's older brother rents these wicked zombie videos and even though their mum said the films are inappropriate for a boy Simon's age, he gets to watch them one weekend when his folks go away. Naturally he calls up his pals and invites them over, and they stay up all night watching these videos, mostly by some guy named Romero (whom Nick keeps calling Romeo for laughs.) Simon watches the heroes in each film. Nick watches the zombies. And Edgar is carefully watching how the movies are done, where the camera was put and how the shots were edited to make things the most exciting, and how in some of the movies, they make sure to keep things kinda funny after the scary bits so that everybody watching can relax a bit. He also notices how some of the scariest bits happen after you think the scary bits are done, and thinks it's awesome how they can trick you like that (all three boys are really scared at one part or another during the films, but nobody admits it to the others.)

A few days later in the tree fort, the boys are talking about all the films they saw and how cool it would be to actually be in a zombie movie. After a few minutes of quiet deliberation, Edgar says, "You know, I bet we could do that. I mean, Dad's got a video camera and I bet he'll let me use it if I promise not to break it. We could make our own zombie movie and star in it and everything. Simon, you can be the hero."

"Cool!" says Simon. "And Nick gets to play my best friend, ok, and we go around bashing zombie heads in with our cricket bats, how's that?"

"But I wanna be a zombie," Nick says sadly.

"We can work it into the script," says Edgar, and off they go. Edgar and Simon write the story, they recruit friends and family members to appear in the other parts (Simon makes sure to write a part where he gets kissed, and Edgar makes sure to cast the girl Simon fancies as the kisser) and in a few weeks' time they have made a movie called Shaun Of The Dead, and Edgar is very good with the video camera and does not break it. They let their family watch the movie for free, but they charge the neighborhood kids to see it at Simon's house, because he has the biggest television set. Everybody thinks Simon did great at playing the hero, and as it turns out, Nick is very good at being funny, and one of the grown-ups, a "dabbler in cinematography" himself, tells Edgar he did a top job at making the movie both funny and scary at the same time. Edgar is embarrassed at the attention, but inwardly very pleased that somebody noticed.

At the end of the summer and several Saturday showings of the movie, the boys count their money and realize they made quite an impressive haul. After spending some on a junk food binge that nobody's parents approve of, they are finally compelled to put the rest in the bank by Nick's financially-minded father.

The next summer they're a little bit older and, when Edgar's older brother is working at the little movie theater in town, he lets them in to watch these Chinese cop movies. Everybody speaks Chinese so you have to read the words on the screen, but Simon, Nick and Edgar watch them all like a hundred times each. From then on it's nothing but cops for them. They pretend their bikes are cop cars, they rent movies like Lethal Weapon even though Simon's mum says there's much too much cursing in them for a boy his age, and once again, in the tree fort, they come up with the idea to make a cop movie of their own.

"I already wrote a story," Edgar says. "Simon will star as the toughest, coolest, best cop in London."

"London?" Nick says. "We can't go to London to make a movie. What, are we going to we ride our bikes down the M1?"

"No," says Edgar, rolling his eyes. "See, Simon is such a good cop that he makes the other cops look bad, so they transfer him to a small town that looks just like our town. And everything in the town looks normal and everybody's nice, but then strange things start happening, and Simon realizes there's a murderer on the loose, and even though nobody else in the town believes it, he has to find the killer."

"Fried gold," Simon says in awe, imagining how he's going to get to do all the awesome things he's seen on screen, like jumping away from an explosion, or chasing a suspect and rolling over the front end of a car that suddenly comes out of an alley, or leaping in slow-motion with two pistols blazing away.

"But it's going to be funny, too, right?" Nick asks. "It's got to be funny."

"Of course it's going to be funny," Edgar says, "And you're gonna be one of the funniest parts of the movie."

"Textbook!" Nick says, and off they go and before you know it, they've made a cop movie that they call Hot Fuzz, even though Simon's mum thinks the name sounds rather suspect if you ask her. And again, Simon is really very good at playing the hero, and Nick is even funnier than he was in last summer's movie, and Edgar, as it turns out, has learned a great deal about filmmaking in between, so even more grown-ups recognize that the boy may very well have a future in this sort of business.

That's pretty much how I felt when I watched Hot Fuzz last night at the Kendall. I was watching the work of three boys who decided they wanted to make and star in a cop movie, just as they had earlier decided they wanted to make and star in a zombie movie of their own. The film is hilarious, it lampoons nearly every cliche in the cop genre, it's quite gory in parts, and the end shootout takes forever and is worth every second. Edgar, Simon and Nick are all grown-up (Simon and Nick really are best friends, by the way) and while they have to do all the grown-up things that come with making movies, like finding money and coordinating a shooting schedule and all, inside they're still three kids who came up with this wicked idea in Nick's tree fort.

And because of it, I think they're the three luckiest bastards alive.