Atongue-in-cheek take on Hollywood action films from the makers of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz operates off a series of contrasts: between American and British crime fiction, urban and rural cultures, severe violence and goofy one-liners, and also between its central protagonists, no-nonsense super-cop Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) and his bumbling, movie-obsessed partner Danny Butterman (Nick Frost). Such dissimilarities are far from original, but that’s part of the point, as director Edgar Wright’s latest deliberately revels in cliché overload as a means of lovingly parodying—as well as paying homage to—three decades-worth of trigger-happy films. After Team America: World Police, this brand of blockbuster lampooning is itself something of a tired formula. Yet the sheer, giddy vigor with which Wright and Pegg (who also co-wrote the screenplay) faithfully pay tribute to their corny source material is nonetheless infectious, and helps invigorate their rowdy story about Angel, a sergeant so astonishingly proficient that his superiors—in an effort to prevent their finest officer from continuing to make other big city Bobbies look bad—relocate him from London to the bucolic country village of Sandford.
A man whose life is his work, Angel is relentlessly ridiculed by new colleagues who find his chronic suspiciousness laughable, even as he begins piecing together a convincing case that a rash of local accidents are, in fact, murders most foul. Sandford is the kind of quaint, sleepy community in which Wallace and Gromit might reside, making it an ideally comedic locale for Angel’s testosterone-fueled bravery, bombast, and banter with childish sidekick Butterman, all of which is depicted with hackneyed—and expertly mimicked—aesthetic tropes like whiplash camerawork, spasmodic editing, and a pounding rock soundtrack. An early crossword puzzle joke about fascists amusingly nails Dirty Harry-era criticisms about the vigilante-loving genre. However, unlike Shaun of the Dead‘s rather light, laidback mockery of zombie flicks, Hot Fuzz supplies jokes while also striving to provide overblown shoot-‘em-up kicks, a fine line straddled with aplomb thanks to a nicely modulated (if overly long) script, Pegg and Frost’s natural yin-yang chemistry, and a superb supporting cast featuring (among others) Jim Broadbent, Timothy Dalton, Bill Nighy, and a hilarious—and hilariously mustached—Paddy Considine.
That it self-consciously chooses the odious Bad Boys II as one of its stylistic templates (replete with pointlessly circling pans and slow-motion) is forgivable considering that its other prime influence is the ne plus ultra of modern Hollywood action films, Kathryn Bigelow’s Point Break, a superlatively cheesy classic whose most overwrought—and unintentionally funny—moment becomes a key plot point during Angel and Butterman’s investigation. Running out of ammo before its (myriad) conclusions are complete, and perhaps not as consistently funny as Wright and Pegg’s prior collaboration, the diligently silly Hot Fuzz still thrives on a type of irresistibly geeky fanboy cine-passion. And with regards to its aforementioned central dichotomies, this ode to Lethal Weapon-esque odd couple heroics also ultimately proves quite harmonious, reconciling its dissimilar elements by cannily demonstrating that Angel and Butterman are kindred spirits, brutal crime is a provincial as well as metropolitan problem, action films are, at heart, comedies of machismo, and, most shrewdly, that mainstream cinematic distinctions between Britain and America no longer apply—now, increasingly, there’s only Bruckheimer and Bay.
The image is almost without fault, film-like even though it nails the synthetic, eye-popping allure of digital extravaganzas like Bad Boys II. Contrast and shadow delineation are both superb, and color saturation is stunning. Most impressive is fine object detail, though I did notice some artifacts obstructing the brightly colored aisle numbers inside Timothy Dalton's supermarket. Sound is booming but fidelity between the highs and lows of the soundtrack is somewhat inconsistent. Be prepared to raise and lower the volume on your system.
Recommendation: Equip the Fuzz-O-Meter trivia track and listen to the superb commentary by Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright at the same time. Pegg and Wright are good for some juicy anecdotes, but you may get a headache trying to process all the films being spoofed, sometimes within the stretch of two minutes, and the texts used as reference. (Not surprisingly, the filmmakers treated Ebert's Little Movie Glossary: A Compendium of Movie Clichés, Stereotypes, Obligatory Scenes, Hackneyed Formulas, Shopworn Conventions, and Outdated Archetypes as their Holy Grail.) The disc's interactive menus are gorgeous, and in the extras department you'll also find trailers and TV spots, 22 deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary, a featurette on Pegg and Wright's U.S. press tour, storyboards, snippets from the film stripped of their cuss words, animation from Danny's notebook, and a skit that has Pegg and Nick Frost spoofing Sean Connery and Michael Caine from The Man Who Would Be King that totally went over my head, even though I just saw the John Huston film for the first time only two weeks ago.
With a fine image and sound transfer and a worthwhile collection of hearty extras, Hot Fuzz is now in the running for the title of Mainstream DVD of the Year.