After Simon Pegg and Director Edgar Wright made a sizable splash in America from the success of their ode to the undead with Shaun of the Dead, they went on the unenviable task of trying to top it. The pair, who have collaborated with one another since their cult British television show Spaced, decided their next film should be in honor of the cop buddy films that were released during the 1980s. And thus, the idea for Hot Fuzz was born.
Pegg and Wright wrote the film which casts Pegg as a London police officer of the highest caliber. Nicholas Angel has received awards and notoriety that many career policemen would envy. He's so good at catching criminals that it's starting to make the rest of the force look bad. When he gets a promotion to sergeant, he is reassigned - or in his eyes banished - to the sleepy town of Sandford, where no crime occurs. Everyone seems to have "accidents" that are easily laughed off both by the police force and by Angel's new partner, the dimwitted Danny Butterman (Nick Frost, Pegg's co-star from Spaced and Shaun). However, when real crime does emerge in Sandford, Angel is determined to stop it, no matter how high up the leads may go.
Hot Fuzz accomplishes two things rather well. First, and to borrow something that was said in the supplements on the disc, the film wouldn't have worked properly unless Pegg played things on the more serious side, which he does rather well. The laughs would have become a little hollow and not as funny there had been some comical expressions by Pegg, but he does a remarkable job of remaining stone faced, especially when you consider that Frost steals many scenes with physical buffoonery delivered with childish innocence. My wife observed that Frost does look a little bit like a chimp, which might be the reason for his laughs, but it doesn't hurt that Frost is generally a funny guy. He serves as an excellent foil for Pegg, and it's clear their chemistry is excellent.
Frost's father in the film is played by Jim Broadbent (Iris), and that leads me to the other thing that I enjoyed so much about the film; Broadbent, along with the virtual galaxy of British acting talent, does a tremendous job of giving the film credibility. As Simon Skinner, the film's main protagonist, Timothy Dalton (The Living Daylights) shows a comical side that many didn't know he had. I sure wasn't aware of the comedic stylings of Paddy Considine, who plays Detective Sergeant Andy Wainwright, and whom I remember from the Jim Sheridan tearjerker In America. The film is peppered with other familiar faces, including Edward Woodward (The Equalizer), Paul Freeman (Raiders of the Lost Ark) and Bill Nighy (Love Actually). Some other British comedic talents who appear include Steve Coogan (Tropic Thunder) and Stephen Merchant (Extra). Oh, I should note that Broadbent is one of three Oscar winners who show up in the film; he just happens to be the only one you recognize, as the other two are uncredited.
But to say that Hot Fuzz is a veritable Cannonball Run of British acting talent is not giving the film enough credit. Pegg's stoic countenance draws you into what is actually an intelligent comedy that features the nuances of other films while reveling in the pop culture that Pegg and Wright admire so much. Even when they manage to throw in something silly ("Mothers!"), you'll still go along with it. Or when there is a slow build to a great payoff or any time when Rory McCann comes on screen and says "yarp." It all adds up to a prolonged and bloody final act full of gunplay. But when we're talking about a couple of guys who have a fondness for the cop film, they're only mirroring what they've seen right? And that's why the film is fun and funny.
Perhaps above everything else, Pegg and Wright have accomplished with Hot Fuzz the same type of thing that they got with Shaun. It's a clever send-up of a genre known to many people but ultimately, they've created another film that people have and will watch over and over again. Through it all, they remain the nice boys who worked on a Channel 4 show for the BBC, only wiser and funnier, and that's a gift that keeps on giving.
The Blu-ray Disc:
Presented in 2.35:1 1080p high definition widescreen, Hot Fuzz appears to be using the same VC-1 encoded transfer that graced it on HD DVD. That's not a complaint, as the feature looks excellent. Blacks are deep and consistent throughout the film, image detail is sharp across the board, and film grain is present without being distracting. Backgrounds are both clear and have a multidimensional feel to them, flesh tones are accurately reproduced, and the end result of all this is a great looking film.
Universal replaces a Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack from the HD DVD with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track, and the results are outstanding. The film's soundtrack was already brilliant with loads of subwoofer involvement on the scene transitions, a fairly musical soundtrack - including Adam Ant, the Fratellis and other Brit musicians - and dialogue that was strong in the center channel. Add all of that with surround activity and an abundance of directional effects and you've got yourself a winner. The film is powerful in lossless audio, but I was particularly taken by a quieter scene when Nick is at Danny's house and they're doing the Point Break/Bad Boys II double feature. Over my shoulder, I could hear the sound of the second disc being loaded into the DVD player. That my friends, should indicate that Wright cared about the sound design in the film, and that care translates into nothing less than an exceptional-sounding motion picture.
For as much derision as Universal has received in the past, they're quietly edging their way up the Blu-ray ladder both in terms of quality and customer satisfaction. Not only have they ported over the extras from an already loaded HD DVD, but they've also included the remaining extras from the standard definition three-disc disc Collector's Edition (basically, everything that the UK consumer got) and put it all onto a BD-50, making for a true "Ultimate Edition."
First off, let's start with the commentaries, of which there are no less than FIVE. The tracks with Pegg/Wright and the Pegg/Frost/supporting cast of "officers," including Broadbent, are substantial, well-informed and required listening for fans. A third with Dalton, Woodward and other Sandford "citizens" is a little bit dull and without any real substance, but the participants get along well and show some life here and there. A fourth with technical advisors/real police officers Andy Leafe and Nick Eklund is like the Sandford actors' commentary, but without the personality. The new and fifth commentary is with Wright and Quentin Tarantino and, as you'd expect from QT, he's a lively participant. He covers how he managed to drop into this appearance and how the film closely resembles a similar, but underappreciated movie, the Clint Eastwood film The Rookie. And while Wright fills in whatever space is there with production stories or information, Tarantino discusses his films as well, not to mention the shared admiration they have for many of the established British actors that appear on screen during the feature. It's a fun and busy track, even if not a lot of valuable things are discussed, it's still fun. A whole mess of deleted scenes follow (22, 20:37), which are mainly extended takes that give you a fuller appreciation for a joke coming full circle. They include an optional commentary from Wright. The outtake reel (10:22) is slightly long but hilarious.
But wait, there's more! Next is a section called the "Evidence Room," which houses several subsections that cover various aspects of the production. In the "Conclusive" subsection is "We Made Hot Fuzz" (29:34), which appears to be the most topical of the bunch. Wright and Pegg discuss what they wanted to do after Shaun and their intent for Fuzz, as well as their thoughts on working with some of their idols from Brit cinema and television. The "Speculative" section has a series of video blogs (13, 29:55) shot before and during the production. Pegg's physical work is shown and you get a lot of participation on this from Pegg, Wright and Frost. On a related note, I completely forgot one of the cameos, but they included it in one of the blogs. Great stuff. "Forensic" is a series of eight smaller featurettes which you can play individually or all at once (44:54), if you're up for it. This focuses more on the production design side of the film and points out the subtle nods of tribute to some cinematic police officers or actors ([Chuck] Norris Hill and [Martin] Riggs street for instance). Wright's family and friends recall him growing up in the neighborhood where the film was shot, and Wright and Pegg show the notes that helped them put the script together. You even see footage from a premiere screening in the Wales town where it was shot. The "Photographic" section is your stills/gallery area, while the "Hearsay" section examines some plot holes that might have gone unnoticed (3:23), not to mention some visual effects comparison footage (6:21) from several scenes. "Falsified" includes Wright's first film, an amateur production titled Dead Right (40:12), which is okay from a novelty standpoint. Plus it includes two commentary tracks; one with Wright and another with Pegg and Frost. There's also a making-of featurette (10:29) included for good measure.
We're not done yet! You also get the uncut Fuzzball Rally (1:11:09), which is basically Wright, Pegg and Frost on their month long publicity tour for the film in America. You see them attend numerous screenings and post-screening Q&A sessions, along with their attendance at MTV, Comedy Central and other entertainment outlets. You see the crowd reaction to a couple of the key scenes in the film, and the actors' general goofy interplay. An extended series of phone interviews is a testament to that last part. During the tour, Frost was given birthday cakes that he could not eat and had to flush down the toilet. Cue up footage of Frost flushing cake down the tubes. And yes, this piece has a commentary with the three, along with Joe Cornish who was filming it. This extra was on the HD DVD, but was cut to half of the time, so the full-length film is great to have here. "The Man Who Would Be Fuzz" (0:34) has a randomly placed outtake, while "Hot Funk" (3:43) is a series of lines dubbed and made innocuous for television. "Danny's Notebook" (0:21) is a quick film showing the other side of Frost's character notebook, which he refers to in the film. There have been additional video blogs for Volkswagen (21:29) and iTunes (16:30) that are new to this release and look at driving and films, respectively. A storyboard gallery is next, with two trailers and two TV spots being the last material on this BD-Live and D-Box enabled monster.
Hot Fuzz is the complete package; an entertaining movie that you can laugh at during every viewing, above average to near reference quality audio and video, and enough supplemental features to fully appreciate the film and make you come back for more. Any substantive complaining of the film or disc would be splitting the smallest of hairs, so I'll just clam up now and affix Hot Fuzz with the DVD Talk Collector's Series label.