Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright shot to prominence thanks to their 2004 hit zombie-comedy, Shaun of the Dead. And while I was probably one of three people in the world who didn't think Shaun was all it was cracked up to be, I could still see the comic potential inherent in the English trio. And when I saw the trailers for Hot Fuzz, their loving homage to every action film they've ever seen, I thought to myself that maybe this time, they got it right. Maybe this time they would combine the best elements of action movies with their brand of British comedy to create a winning picture.
And you know what? That's exactly what they did. Hot Fuzz is a rip-roaring action picture, and it's also a pitch-perfect comedy. Simon Pegg stars as Sgt. Nicholas Angel, one of the most dedicated and decorated police offers in the London police force. In fact, he's so good, that according to the Chief Inspector (Bill Nighy), he's "Making all of us look bad!" So he gets shipped off to Sanford, a sleepy little community where nothing ever happens. On his first night, Sgt. Angel rounds up half the town for various minor misdeeds, raising the ire of the small Sanford police office. Angel is soon paired off with the local police reject, Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), son of the police chief Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent). He's also introduced to several of the town's more prominent citizens, including local businessman Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton). After the rough and tumble times he had in London, the problems of a small town like Sanford seem like nothing for Angel. But strange accidents start occurring that make Angel wonder if perhaps there is something dark lurking beneath the pristine exterior of this small, out-of-the-way town.
Hot Fuzz is Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright's loving homage to all the outrageous and awesome action films of the past twenty years or so. I hesitate to call the film a parody, as it's clear that Pegg and Wright love all the films they're lampooning. But there's no denying that the film takes the stylistic cliches of the genre and blow them up to their most extreme. The best example is when Angel arrests a load of kids around the town on his first night, and we're treated to a Tony Scott-esque montage of Angel...doing paperwork. In fact, many of the film's less interesting moments are given a shot in the arm through the use of completely absurd quick-cut editing (think Ash making his metal hand in Army of Darkness or the drug use sequences in Requiem For A Dream). The film also takes aim at several staples of the genre, such as the hero's propensity for saying something witty at the end of a fight.
But the real reason Hot Fuzz works is because it's got an honest-to-goodness story and the humor and the action grow out of it. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are old teammates by now, with Pegg as the straight man and Frost as his bumbling sidekick. Pegg is so good at being straight-faced that his performance is all the more hilarious for his deadpan delivery. Frost is capable of throwing out the most ridiculous and stupid lines, almost as a throwaway. The two make a perfect pair.
The supporting cast is so good it's almost surprising they're in this film. You've got Bill Nighy (Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, Underworld), Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Longford, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe), and Timothy Dalton (The Rocketeer, Licence To Kill, The Living Daylights), to name a few. Throw in cameos by Cate Blanchett (Vera Drake, Coffee and Cigarettes), Peter Jackson (director of a few small New Zealand films), Steve Coogan (24 Hour Party People), and Martin Freeman (The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy), and you can practically make a drinking game out of spotting these actors.
Pretty much every gag in Hot Fuzz works. Director Edgar Wright really did his homework, and throws in all kinds of aural and visual references to a multitude of previous action pictures. Furthermore, the action in the film actually works. They aren't making fun of the fight sequences or the shootouts, they're painstakingly recreating them, except it's with old ladies or priests instead of thugs and drug runners.
I cannot recommend Hot Fuzz enough. It's funny, it's action-packed, it's everything I could have wanted out of the Pegg/Wright/Frost collaboration. Keep 'em coming boys, because you're only getting better at it.
The HD DVD:
Universal presents Hot Fuzz in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 in this VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer. This transfer of Hot Fuzz looks even better than when I saw the film theatrically. There's a ton of detail, color reproduction is superb, and the overall image is very strong. There's no artifacting, no video noise, nothing to mar the image in any way. Of course, since this is a 2007 release, you'd expect it to look good, but this transfer blew away even my high expectations. If only all HD releases could look as good as this.
While Universal is shunning the use of lossless audio codecs, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 mix provided here still manages to kick some arse. Again, being a brand new film, I expected the sound design of Hot Fuzz to be very active, but again, the level of detail and sonic fidelity in this mix surpassed what I expected. There's almost always something going on, whether it be the sounds of Angel's footsteps, the quacking of a swan, or the crowd in the pub. Nicely done.
Universal ports over all the extras from the DVD edition, while also going out of their way to add a host of features not available anywhere else. None of the extras are in high definition (or, for that matter, in anamorphic widescreen sometimes), but we get so much more than the standard DVD that it makes up for it. This is one of the most packed sets I've seen on any format in a long while.
- Outtakes: Ten minutes of the actors making each other crack up. Some hilarious spit takes from Simon Pegg.
- Theatrical Trailers: A full trailer, two TV spots, and a "director's cut" trailer.
- The Man Who Would Be Fuzz: Pegg and Frost do their best Michael Caine and Sean Connery imitations for one scene in Hot Fuzz.
- Hot Funk (The TV Version): Just like it sounds, we get to see several scenes dubbed for television.
- Danny's Notebook - The Other Side: There's a scene in Hot Fuzz where Angel tells Danny that the most important weapon he'll ever have is his notebook. Danny retorts by saying that he does in fact use his notebook, and proceeds to show Nick a flip book he's drawn. He also makes mention of another flipbook on the other side of the pages. Here, we get to see that other side, and it's pretty darn funny.
- Commentary with Co-writer/Director Edgar Wright and Co-writer/Actor Simon Pegg: The first of four (yes, four) feature-length commentaries, this one is just Wright and Pegg. And it's clear the two have worked together for a long time, and are very comfortable with each other. They talk easily about the genesis of the project, of production stories, their thoughts on the piece, and more. Very listenable and very worthwhile.
- Commentary with Actors Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Jim Broadbent, Rafe Spall, Kevin Eldon, and Olivia Coleman: In the second commentary, we get the Sandford Police Force, who spend most of their time joking around and riffing with each other. Not essential, but very funny.
- Commentary with Actors Kenneth Cranham, Paul Freeman, Edward Woodward, and Timothy Dalton: The third commentary features members of the Sanford Neighborhood Watch. Sadly, a lot of the commentary has the members either saying nothing or talking about how they have nothing to say. Even the presence of the great Timothy Dalton does little to liven up this leaden track.
- Commentary with Police Officers Andy Leafe and Nick Eckland: This fourth and final comedy has two real police officers (called "The Real Fuzz" on the disc) who also both consulted on the film. They talk about their real life experiences while also discussing the film and what it was like to work on it. Not too bad.
- Fuzz-O-Meter (Trivia Track): An excellent supplement to the commentaries, this pop-up trivia track points out many of the references in the film, some so subtle that I had no idea Pegg and Wright put that much time into it.
- Storyboards: Storyboards for every single scene in the movie. There's one set of storyboards for every chapter in the main feature. That's a lot of storyboards to look at.
- Deleted Scenes: Twenty minutes' worth of deleted scenes, all with optional director's commentary. Some of these are very good, but were cut for pacing or time. Others are a little more obvious why they got the boot.
- Making Hot Fuzz: Or, as the actual documentary titles it, "We Made Hot Fuzz, this is an excellent thirty minute feature that intersperses on-the-set footage with individual interviews and it's all twinged with Pegg and Wright's distinctive sense of humor.
- Video Blogs: Another thirty minutes worth of footage, this all shot on the set, that were originally released on the web. These cover many different aspects of production, although each individual part is rather short.
- Featurettes: Anything that wasn't covered by the past two extras are shown here, including all manner of bizarre and arcane tangents. As with the other two, this also has many a joke thrown in by the filmmakers.
- Galleries: A poster gallery and a photo gallery.
- Plot Holes and Comparisons: Storyboards from the film are used to explain some of the more confusing sequences in the film, with narration by the film's stars. We also get a series of before and after footage of the effects shots.
- Dead Right: A film Edgar Wright made around 1993/1994. We get the entire 40-minute movie, shot on a shoestring budget. Luckily, it never takes itself seriously and is fun a goofy and awkward sort of way. We get commentaries by Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost, as well as a making of where Wright discusses how Dead Right was the impetus for Hot Fuzz.
Hot Fuzz is one of the best films of 2007. It seamlessly blends humor with action to create one of the funniest and most riveting movies I've seen in a long time. This HD DVD is a must-have, with reference quality picture and sound, and so many extras it'll make your head spin. In fact, it's got way more extras than the standard DVD version, making it the ultimate edition. Watch out, here come the Fuzz! DVD Talk Collector Series.