- Rated R
- Buy the BD
All photos © Universal Pictures
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
or the follow-up to their 2004 zombie comedy, “Shaun of the Dead,” director Edgar Wright and star Simon Pegg had some pretty big shoes to fill. Not only was the British import one of the best movies of the year, but it also grabbed the attention of every film geek in the business. The message was clear: Hollywood was listening, and the industry was anxious to see if the duo’s sophomore effort would make or break them. What many don’t realize, however, is that “Shaun” was their sophomore effort (their first project together, the television series “Spaced,” already secured their cult status on the other side of the pond), and so while the stakes are just as high with the release of the action comedy, “Hot Fuzz,” it’s foolish to bet their futures on it. And just in case you already have, don’t fret, because while “Hot Fuzz” may not have the same comedic zip that made “Shaun” an overnight hit, it’s still tons more fun than the films it proudly celebrates.
Simon Pegg stars as Nicholas Angel, a by-the-books London police officer who is so good at his job he makes his fellow colleagues look bad. As a result, Angel is promoted to sergeant and shipped off to the quiet town of Stanford so the rest of the force can avoid further embarrassment. When he arrives, Angel is partnered up with town drunk and action film aficionado Danny Butterman (Nick Frost) – the son of Stanford's police chief (Jim Broadbent) – and forced to perform menial tasks like chasing down wild swans. That is, until a string of “accidental” deaths strikes the community, confirming Angel’s belief that there’s more to the town than meets the eye.
As was true with zombie films and “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” isn’t so much a satire of the buddy cop genre as it is a fanatical love letter. These guys aren’t making fun of movies like “Point Break” and “Bad Boys 2” – they’re paying homage to them; so much so that they actually recreate scenes from both films. Of course, with a budget at only a tenth of most Hollywood movies, the action in “Hot Fuzz” is extremely limited. This means that most of the film is more set-up than payoff (with the characters developed far greater than usual for an action flick), and as a result, the middle of the film suffers.
There are plenty of laughs throughout (some you won’t catch the first time around, and others you’ll never catch as a Yank), but as the story transitions from a comedy into a murder mystery, the audience is forced to sit patiently through some dreadfully bare moments. A little extra time spent in the editing room would have done wonders for the final product, especially when dealing with Angel’s personality. Despite exaggerating the concept of his militant policing methods in the first 20 minutes of the film, the script finds it necessary to revisit the idea again and again. It doesn’t help that Angel isn’t nearly as appealing as Pegg’s previous roles, and though the actor transforms into the tightwad copper surprisingly well, the character hardly requires so much development.
In fact, despite often going unnoticed as a contributing member of the team, Nick Frost is the heart and soul of each and every production. His appearance in “Shaun of the Dead” may be more memorable than that of his wannabe supercop, but it’s not nearly as important. Frost’s onscreen chemistry with Pegg is the main reason these films work so well, more so in “Hot Fuzz” than ever before. Equally important to the success of the film is the astonishing cast of Britain’s finest, from veterans like Bill Nighy, Timothy Dalton and Jim Broadbent, to current stars like Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Steve Coogan. Look closely, and you’ll even spy director Peter Jackson as a knife-wielding Santa Clause and Cate Blanchett as Angel’s ex-girlfriend, Jeanine.
Simply put, “Hot Fuzz” is like an Agatha Christie novel directed by Michael Bay, with some graphic death scenes thrown in for good measure. Seriously, though: who knew an action flick could be so gory? Wright obviously has a keen eye for horror (as evidenced in “Shaun” and his fake trailer for “Grindhouse”), and the “Final Destination" type murders sprinkled throughout are more than enough proof that the director should return to the genre in the near future. Still, the real reason to see “Hot Fuzz” is for the film’s highly stylized final shootout. The action-packed conclusion may take 90 minutes to get to, but by the time it arrives, it’s well worth the wait. Sure, a few rounds of bullets is no match for a cricket bat to the head, but it doesn’t make the comedic trio any less exciting to watch. And yes, when it's all said and done, Hollywood will still be listening.
Ultimate Edition Blu-Ray Review:
A near identical version of the three-disc DVD set released two years ago, “Hot Fuzz: Ultimate Edition” is one of the best Blu-rays on the market. Universal has pulled out all the stops, and it starts with a whopping five audio commentaries featuring nearly every cast member, real-life police officers, and a bonus track with director Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino. Pretty much everything you could ever want is included here – from deleted scenes and outtakes to production featurettes and video blogs – but that’s only the beginning. There’s also an in-depth making-of (“We Made Hot Fuzz”), a 71-minute documentary on the film’s U.S. tour (“The Fuzzball Rally”), Wright’s 1993 short film “Dead Right,” and plenty of fun little Easter eggs. The HD edition also includes new features like picture-in-picture storyboards and the “Fuzz-o-Meter" pop-up trivia track.