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After the success of their 2004 smash-hit rom-zom-com Shaun of the Dead, Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright’s next film had a lot to live up to. When the news arrived that they were to turn their attention to the action movie genre traditionally dominated by the likes of Michael Bay, I was curious as to how they would bring the high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled car chases and shootouts of the American films to the relatively sedate streets of Britain.

Hot Fuzz

Featue


PC Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is the finest officer in the Metropolitan Police Service, with an arrest record 400% higher than average, qualifications in advanced driving and cycling (not to mention a string of extra-vocational activities), and specialist  training in firearms. Unfortunately Nicholas is so good he makes everyone else look bad, and as a result his superiors promote him to the rank of sergeant and pack him off to the sleepy little village of Sandford, Gloucestershire.

In Sandford, multi-award-winning ‘Village of the Year’, high-speed pursuits and armed raids give way to escaped swans and disputes over hedgerows. Angel struggles to adapt to his new surroundings, and matters are not helped by his partner, Inspector’s son Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), a well-meaning but oafish action movie junkie. However, just when it seems as though Angel will spend the rest of his days dealing with petty crime, a series of bizarre and horrific ‘accidents’ shatter the peace of the once tranquil village.

Convinced that there is more to the accidents than meets the eye, Angel enlists the help of his puppy-like partner and sets out to uncover the grisly truth. Is Angel just a big cop in a small village, unable to cope with the change of pace and looking for smoke without fire? Is he simply losing his mind? Or is there something more sinister afoot; a dark secret that runs through the very heart of Sandford?

Hot Fuzz
I’m going to begin by echoing the statement made in my Shaun of the Dead review: Hot Fuzz is the most refreshing film I’ve seen this year! As a huge Shaun fan I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of Fuzz, which manages to take everything that made the previous movie great and move it to the next level. As before there is plenty of self-referential humour to keep the long-term Pegg/Wright fans happy, such as subtle in-jokes about Cornettos and appearance from frequent collaborators like Julia Deakin and Kevin Eldon, but there are plenty of references to other recognisable action films so as to ensure that newcomers don’t feel alienated.

Once again the humour is decidedly ‘British’, taking its comedy from the relatively mundane setting. While the characters aren’t as accessible as those in Shaun (I’ll wager most of you know more slackers than you do police officers), Pegg and Wright allow you to sympathise with the slightly ‘twatish’ Angel through the eyes of his lovable partner, Danny Butterman. All of this is made possible by the fantastic rapport between Pegg and Nick Frost, who puts in another memorable performance as a slightly obnoxious but well-meaning sidekick. There are plenty of other fine performances as well, not least from Jim Broadbent (one of three Oscar-winners featured in the film) and ex-Bond Timothy Dalton as the slimy Simon Skinner. But it is Paddy Considine and Rafe Spall (who you may remember as Noel, the shop assistant with the shit-eating grin in Shaun of the Dead) that steal every scene that they’re in—just check out the ‘model village’ gag for proof!

Hot Fuzz
Fuzz also features its fair share of splatter, with plenty of decapitations, impalings and a particularly nasty incident involving a church roof. There’s also ample gunplay to be found in the closing scenes of the film, with Angel and Butterman going through a veritable armoury in their quest for justice. Ironically it’s these scenes that have earned the most criticism, with many feeling that the film outstays its welcome by some twenty minutes or so. I was sort of held of the same opinion when I saw the film for the first time, but since the second theatrical viewing and now this DVD I’ve come to forgive the self-indulgence. It’s obvious from what’s up on the screen that everyone involved was clearly having a great time, and if you approach it with the right frame of mind you can’t help but be wept along. In fact the only negative thing I can really find to say about Hot Fuzz is that the regional accents are sometimes a little dodgy (coming from Bristol I’m quite familiar with the Somerset accent), but most people probably won’t notice the subtle nuances. Still, this is a very minor criticism of what is one of the year’s most enjoyable films

Video


Universal presents Hot Fuzz in its theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1, complete with de rigueur anamorphic enhancement. Unlike Shaun of the Dead, most of the bonus content is spread over two discs, which leaves plenty of storage on disc one for the main feature itself. This results in a transfer that surpasses Shaun and actually ranks as one of the best I’ve seen in recent times.

Hot Fuzz
I managed to catch the film twice at the cinema so it’s still reasonably fresh in my mind, and based on those viewings I’d have to say that colour rendition is true to the theatrical experience. Everything from the cool, blue-tinted palette of the city at the start of the film to the warmer, brighter colours of the countryside is rendered beautifully. With many of the film’s events occurring at night I was a little worried that the transfer might not be up to the job, but both contrast and brightness are excellent (blacks are suitably inky, but not at the expense of shadow detail).

For me, the most disappointing element of Universal’s Shaun transfer was the sharpness, but thankfully Hot Fuzz also fares better in this area. The image is also exceptionally clean and relatively free from digital artefacts, with only a minor amount of edge enhancement on display. When awarding my video score I agonised over whether to opt for an eight or a nine, going back and forth for a while before finally deciding on the higher score. I don’t know, perhaps I’m going soft in my old age?

On a personal note I have just one request for Universal: for the love of God, stop watermarking your check discs! Real ‘pirates’ won’t care and I resent the insinuation that I’m a thief!

Hot Fuzz

Audio


The only available soundtrack is an English Dolby Digital 5.1 effort. Thankfully the track lives up to the standards set by the video, creating an atmospheric, immersive experience that keeps pace with the on-screen events. After a fairly loud opening montage in which we’re introduced to Nicholas Angel, things become very gentle as we transition to the countryside. Ambient effects are neatly utilised to bring the village to life, but it is not until the film shifts into a higher gear that the track comes into its own.

Once the action heats up the 5.1 audio goes into overdrive, assaulting the listener with all manner of discrete effects, from screeching tyres, to gunfire, and even a galloping (well cantering) horse. Bass is ferocious, with even Angel’s footsteps eliciting a satisfying thud from the sub, and when things get into full swing you might find yourself reaching for the volume control! In fact that’s the only real problem I had with the audio—when compared to the rest of the soundtrack the bass is perhaps too aggressive. In order to listen at a comfortable level (and not annoy the neighbours) I had to lower the volume from my normal listening level, but this made it slightly hard to discern the dialogue in a couple of scenes. After a bit of fiddling I managed to find a decent compromise and had no further trouble, but I thought it prudent to mention it even if it is only minor thing.

Speaking of the dialogue, the discrete channels are put to good use distributing it around the soundstage when needs be, which actually reveals some previously unheard gags (at least to me). These often consist of amusing background radio chatter, such as the various crime scenes being likened to movies, or one of the ‘Andes’ asking the other to get him a bacon bap. While Hot Fuzz is scored in a more traditional manner than Shaun (with the only really memorable song being ‘Caught by the Fuzz’), David Arnold’s music pays homage to the very films they’re referencing and fits the proceedings nicely.

Hot Fuzz

Extras


Those of you who purchased the Shaun of the Dead DVD will be pretty familiar with the layout of the extras on this two-disc set, as they follow a very similar pattern. Disc one features an impressive four audio commentaries and thankfully, unlike the Shaun DVD, Universal hasn’t prevented viewers from switching between tracks on the fly.

The first track, from director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg, is the most informative of the bunch as it focuses more on the creative process than the other commentaries. Of course they have a natural chemistry, brought about by years of friendship and a long working relationship, which ensures that the track is always entertaining. There are plenty of anecdotes and explanations of the various choices made during the scripting and filming process, making this track your first port of call for all things ‘Fuzzy’.

Commentary number two features the Sandford Police Department, including Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Olivia Coleman, Kevin Eldon and Rafe Spall (with Jim Broadbent popping in around the thirty-minute mark). As with the Shaun group commentary this is a very relaxed affair, with the gang eating toast and drinking tea throughout. As usual, there’s plenty of light hearted banter, particularly between the male cast members, and the whole thing feels like a bunch of friends sitting around discussing the film at home. It’s definitely the most entertaining track of the bunch.

Hot Fuzz
The third and fourth commentaries are something of a disappointment in comparison to what’s come before. The Sanford Villagers commentary features the actors Edward Woodward, Timothy Dalton, Kenneth Cranham and Paul Freeman, but there a frequent periods of dead air where they just sit and watch the film without really adding anything of relevance. There are some interesting anecdotes to be heard though. Commentary number four comes from two real-life Avon and Somerset police officers named Nick and Andy, and is the driest of the four tracks. They acted as advisors on the film, but they seem to take the whole thing a bit seriously on the commentary, pointing out when things aren’t realistic (well duh). That said, there’s still a fair bit to be learned about actual police procedure.

Moving on we come to ‘The Man Who Would Be Fuzz’, which is very similar to a clip found of the Shaun DVD. In it, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost performed a scene from the film as Michael Caine and Sean Connery, and that’s pretty much what they do again. It’s worth a giggle, but it’s not as good as the last one. A series of ‘Outtakes’ follow, most of which are very entertaining. I was particularly amused by ex-Bond Timothy Dalton swearing in an unbelievably posh voice.

A series of trailers come next (four to be exact), followed by ‘Hot Funk’, the TV version of the film with all of the swearing replaced by family-friendly words (think along the lines of ‘muddy funkster’). Finally on disc one we have the ‘Fuzz-O-Meter’ trivia track, which runs alongside the film and offers up nuggets of fried gold trivia. It’s similar to the trivia track found on the Spaced DVDs and points out the various movie references and clichés, as well as some of the cameos.

Hot Fuzz
Disc two is where the real meat of the bonus material resides. First up we have a fairly impressive selection of deleted and extended scenes, all with optional commentary by Edgar Wright. Many of them are just slight variations on scenes featured in the completed film with the odd additional gag that was deemed one step too far, but there are a couple of exceptions. I don’t want to say too much, but one involves the familial relationship between one of the hoodies and a member of the NWA. There is also at least one gag that I wish they’d left in the film, as it’s a great nod to the opening scenes of Shaun of the Dead. In it we learn that Sgt. Angel has a broader vocabulary than Shaun.

A thirty-minute ‘Making of’ featurette comes next. In it, we’re shown plenty of behind-the-scenes footage of the cast and crew coming together during the early stages of production (the script read-through, for example), along with candid on-set interviews with just about every major player. It’s a lot more interesting than the average ‘making of’, mostly because there are no scripted scenes full of self-congratulatory back-slapping.

The ‘Video Blogs’ consist of thirteen behind-the-scenes blogs that were originally shown on the web. Running for a little under thirty minutes in total, the blogs are a relaxed look at life on the set, with plenty of candid footage and comical interludes. Perhaps my favourite of these is one in which Simon and Nick workout in their trailer, complete with spandex hot pants—most amusing. There’s also footage from the supermarket set, the pub, and a short blog about the terrible English weather (which was the production’s greatest enemy).

Hot Fuzz
A series of six featurettes follow. They are, in order, ‘Art Department’, ‘Friends & Family’, ‘Cranks, Cranes & Controlled Chaos’, ‘Here Comes the Fuzz’, ‘Return to Sandford’, ‘Edgar & Simon’s Flip Chart’, ‘Simon Muggs’ and ‘Sergeant Fisher’s Perfect Sunday’. My personal favourite among these is the one with the flip chart, which is very similar to the featurette on the Shaun DVD (Simon and Edgar take us through the genesis of the film with the aforementioned visual aide). I also enjoyed listening to Sergeant Fisher’s idea of his perfect Sunday in its entirety, as it features some great adlibbing from Kevin Eldon.

Next up we have the poster and photo galleries, which consist of the theatrical poster art and some behind-the-scenes shots. The ‘Plot Holes & Comparisons’ section includes explanations for the various plot holes in the film (again, similar to those on the Shaun DVD), including ‘Crush the Messenger’, The Notebook and The Big Bang. The comparisons consist of ‘Special Effects: before and After’, which is in turn made up of ‘First Ka-Boom’, The Aftermath, ‘Grisly Fete’, ‘Shear Horror’, ‘Farmageddon’, ‘Flying Astra’, ‘Inspired Demise’ and ‘Final Ka-Boom’. Those titles are pretty self-explanatory.

Now we come to Edgar Wright’s first cop-themed action movie, ‘Dead Wright’. Filmed on location in his native Welles with the cooperation of friends and family, the forty-minute piece has much common with Hot Fuzz (although not in the acting and production values departments). The film features many of the locations included in its ‘bigger brother’, such as the church and the supermarket (which was Gateway store back then), and there’s a reasonable amount of humour to be found in the obvious lampooning of action movie conventions. Those of you want to learn more about the film can do so courtesy of an optional commentary track from director Edgar Wight. A second track, with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, offers a lighter look at the film.

Hot Fuzz
Finally, there’s a ten-minute ‘Am-Blam: Making Dead Wright’ featurette, in which Edgar Wright reminisces about making his short film. When clips from both movies are played sequentially it really drives home the parallels between the two pieces of work, from camera angles and scene transitions to ‘tooling up’ sequences and splatter effects.

Overall


Hot Fuzz is yet another great film from the Pegg/Wright camp, and another impressive DVD release from Universal. It’s very much to the creators’ credit that they were so heavily involved with the production of the DVD, and that involvement paid off handsomely. I only wish more people would take the time to create unique and interesting content for their home entertainment titles, rather than pushing the same tired promotional fluff time and time again.

On balance I think I still just about prefer their previous outing, Shaun of the Dead, but that’s mostly due to the fact that—zombies aside—I find it easier to relate to the characters of Shaun and Ed than to Nicholas and Danny. That’s not to take anything away from Hot Fuzz though, as it’s still easily the best film I’ve seen all year. Add to this the fact that this two-disc set surpasses the standards set by the Shaun DVD by quite some way, and you have a ‘must buy’ release on your hands.


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