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RUNNING TIME: 121 Minutes
• Audio Commentary by writer/director Edgar Wright and star/co-writer Simon Pegg
• “Fuzz-O-Meter” trivia track and storyboard track
• The Fuzzball Rally documentary
• The Man Who Would Be Pegg feature
• Deleted Scenes
• Danny’s Notebook: The Other Side feature
• Hot Funk feature
• 2 trailers and 2 TV Spots
“It’s like Mrs. Marple produced by Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer!”
Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, Paddy Considine, Rafe Spall, Bill Bailey, Edward Woodward, Billie Whitelaw, Paul Freeman, Stuart Wilson
Sergeant Nicholas Angel is the best cop in London. Literally. He’s got an arrest record that’s 400% better than any of his fellow bobbies, and they don’t take too kindly to overachievers in the city by the Thames. As a result, Angel’s shipped off to Sandford, the safest village in all the Queen’s Land, where stray swans and human statues are the biggest threats to society. It’s quiet, it’s safe, and for Angel, it’s boring, and a waste of his considerable skills.
It should come as a surprise to no one that when the shit does hit the fan, it touches everyone in Sandford, and only Angel can stop it.
As much as I’d like to think that I’m a high-falutin’, cultured movie fan (interpret that as “into movies that have to be read”), my heart lies with the genre picture. My movie love got weaned from them, so in my book, there’s really nothing better than a great genre pic. As a result, a year like 2007 really gets me going since the best flicks released thus far have all been stellar examples of genre filmmaking. Zodiac, Knocked Up, Grindhouse, Sunshine, and most certainly Hot Fuzz are both all going to make my top ten list and all variations on tried and true genre conventions. They also happen to be great fucking movies in their own right, and where Hot Fuzz has an advantage is its approach to the material. This is as entertaining and exciting an action comedy as I’ve ever seen, and yet it’s one where the action movie tropes are mocked at every step of the way.
That’s what makes the work of Messrs. Wright, Pegg, and Frost so exhilarating to watch. Going all the way back to Spaced (if you can do Region Free, then buy it here from Amazon UK), their sensibility has been obvious; they’re the geeks that mock Resident Evil or E.T. or Star Wars (and if you’ve seen Spaced, you know this list could go on) because they love them so much. That love elevates their work from some of their more cynically-minded spoofing peers (the Scary and Epic movie franchises spring to mind).
As a result, we get so much more from Hot Fuzz than petty spoofery. The range of materials covered includes Bruckheimer shoot-’em-ups, Italian giallos, TV cop dramas, BBC mysteries, and just a touch of The Wicker Man (for flavor), but Wright and Co. never let it get out of control. The shorthand they developed working for television enables them to cram in a lot of material quickly and efficiently without the whole shebang seeming a god-awful mess.
Much of this can be attributed to the delivery of the humor – for a movie that so expertly parodies Bruckheimer bombast, many of the best jokes often go unnoticed on a first viewing. Sure, everyone catches Danny Butterman’s big Point Break moment or Timothy Dalton’s so-over-the-top-it’s-bliss Red Herring attitude, but the smaller references to He-Man, Bad Boys 2, or even the use of music in Dalton’s scenes (two words: Dire Straits) come at you fast and subtle with just a single screening. If you did catch ‘em all, give yourself a little pat on the back, but don’t brag too much; some of us ain’t that quick.
Nevertheless, as a Wright/Pegg/Frost fan, I expected all that. What I didn’t expect was the generous dollop of cultural satire also provided. In many ways, Hot Fuzz is all about criticizing the American obsession with violence and overkill in our entertainment. Look at Nick Frost’s Butterman. He may be a lovable buffoon, but he’s a buffoon nonetheless, what with his insistence that police work include all the car chases, gunfights, and homoeroticism…err, I mean, male bonding that occurs in his favorite action movies. By comparison, Hot Fuzz celebrates proper police procedure and restraint; only here will you see the vagaries of paperwork presented at the same pitch as a high-octane gunfight. The way I see it, Wright pulls this off in two main ways. He’s a actually able to have his cake and eat it too – there are some wonderfully grisly killings as well as a gunfight better than anything Michael Bay has ever shot, but SPOILER ALERT Wright quite deliberately keeps heroes Angel and Butterman from killing anyone amidst the gunplay. Wright also has a fantastic star to help out, even though by now, saying Simon Pegg is fantastic is like saying oxygen’s kinda important. Pegg’s work here is stealthy; just as he made slackerdom appealing in Shaun of the Dead, so does he here with Angel’s rigid obsessiveness. Angel’s a by-the-book cop, but Pegg’s so good that we see this as a strength—he makes being a prig sexy.
You know what? Fuck the analyzation for a minute. This is just a terrific movie. It’s funny, but there’s a really strong human element in it all. In fact, the relationship between Danny and Angel is touching at times. But there’s stellar character work all around, from Edward Woodward to Paul “Belloq” Freeman to Rafe Spall and Paddy Considine, whose “Andies” would probably steal the film away from Pegg and Frost if Timothy Dalton hadn’t already swooped in and walked away with it. On the technical side, this is Wright’s finest hour. All his Raimi-esque stylistic touches work perfectly here. Even more than that, he’s made a movie that borrows little visual cues from dozens of other flicks, and yet he and D.P. Jess Hall are able to shoot and stage things in a way that acknowledges their sources while also seeming very individual and unique to Wright and Co. It’s a near perfect synthesis of individuality and homage.
Do I think Hot Fuzz is better than Shaun of the Dead? Not quite. Technically, it is superior, and they’re both great, but… personally, I like zombie flicks better than cop movies, and Shaun is a great zombie flick. But there’s something more. For all its humor and violence, Shaun of the Dead dealt with a serious theme, the loss of innocence and the struggle to “grow up,” and there was something rather touching and almost primal in watching this man-child lose so much that he held dear in order to finally enter adulthood. Hot Fuzz doesn’t have that kind of resonance—Angel’s character arc is fairly comic in nature, as he only has to learn to embrace his inner-Bruckheimer more fully.
But it’s still a great flick. More to the point, it’s a great flick made by geeks for geeks. And damn it, if we can’t get chicks and we often have crippling social deficiencies, then getting flicks like this makes things more tolerable.
The image here is a bit of a mixed bag; some scenes look crisp and sharp, while others are markedly grainier. For such a recent movie, this is unfortunate, but I realize some of the grain might be Wright aping Tony Scott’s camerawork on Man on Fire. Hard to tell. The sound is really schizo. Dialogue is played at a much lower volume than any other sound. Literally. Footsteps on gravel are as loud as gunshots. It’s a bit distracting. The box art is very solid—it’s the U.S. poster, with Pegg and Frost doing their best Will Smith and Martin Lawrence.
I have a bone to pick with the special features, but I’ll get to that in a jiff. What we’ve got on display is a bit of a mixed bag.
First, the good. The commentary between Pegg and Wright is great. Both men are funny and geeky and don’t take anything seriously, and they manage to actually impart a lot of good info about the making of the flick. Would that Nick Frost could’ve been present (I got lucky enough to see these guys at the D.C. Hot Fuzztival, and the chemistry between the three is priceless), but this commentary is almost as fun as the movie. The trivia track is a carry over from the Spaced U.K. DVD set, and it’s especially helpful in pointing out all the references in the flick. The 30-minute Fuzzball Rally documentary is terrific. Rather than a straight behind-the-scenes doc, it covers the director and stars at the Hot Fuzztival stops. Even though the image quality isn’t the best, there’s not a lot of redundant overlap with the commentary, and what we’ve got is real entertaining. I don’t know if I’m onboard for Wright’s two-hour version of this, but we’ll see—they make flushing cake down the toilet funny, so… Then, there are about twenty minute of solid deleted scenes, and another ten minutes of funny outtakes, which are worth watching if only to see Timothy Dalton flub a line and shout “Motherfucker.” License to Kill would’a rocked if 007 talked like that!
After that…well, the features aren’t bad, just unimpressive. The Man Who Would Be Pegg shows Pegg and Frost doing a scene as Michael Caine and Sean Connery from The Man Who Would Be King, which is amusing and all, but the feature lasts only about 25 seconds. Hot Funk is cute—it’s an “airline” edited scene, but again, it’s really short. Same goes for the Danny’s Notebook thing. Clever, but short. Why this is a little irritating is because the UK version is loaded with extra features, including more commentaries (one with the police crew, and one with the villains) and documentaries. Thing is, I don’t think this is a double-dip issue; the HD-DVD has all the extra British features as well. I think Rogue is trying to encourage people to go HD, but as it screws with my standard DVD feature setup, I get a little pissed off.
I love Hot Fuzz. It’s one of my favorite flicks of the year, and its rewatchability factor is huge. The DVD’s more problematic—the picture and sound are a little screwy, and while there are some very solid features on display, it feels skimpy compared to the British and HD releases. I’m gonna recommend it on the strength of the flick, but I’d suggest picking up the Region 2 (buy it here!) if you can. Don’t fall for the HD-DVD ploy!