Hot Fuzz Review
After blazing onto the big screen with the gloriously comic “zomedy” Shaun of the Dead, the creators of Spaced: Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright decided to tap into their mutual love of Hollywood cop films for their next project: Hot Fuzz. The story starts with London super-cop Nicholas Angel being exiled to the sleepy village of Sandford because his achievements were beginning to make his superiors and colleagues look bad. Once in Sandford Angel is partnered up with impressionable man-child Danny Butterman, who is desperate to find out if Angel has experienced any of the high-impact scenarios found in his favourite cop films. Although seemingly banal at first, life in Sandford proves more eventful than Angel could have imagined when a whole spate of accidental deaths start occurring one after the other, leading the workaholic over-achiever to suspect a murderer may be bumping off the locals.
Shaun of the Dead was hailed as an instant classic by fans and critics alike when it came out in 2004, whereas Hot Fuzz received a positive reception, but didn’t quite get taken to heart the way its predecessor did. I think a big part of that reason is that Shaun of the Dead is a modest production with very focussed and complimentary genre spoofing. It did exactly what it said on the tin, Hot Fuzz on the other hand was promoted as a big-budget homage to the action blockbuster, when in reality it incorporates elements and homages of a much wider range of genres: from murder-mysteries to slasher films to cop films of all forms and many more. Other major elements include some extremely quaint observations about rural life in Britain and some playful attention to the bureaucratic details of British police work.
These disparate elements give the impression of an overloaded and schizophrenic vision on first viewing as you try to take every gag thrown at you in. Revisit the film and you’ll be rewarded by the multilayered comedy that combines an extremely witty script with a plethora of sight and sound gags, while the quaint way the narrative incorporates just about every action genre cliché in the book goes from feeling a little stilted to devilishly appropriate. It is only in the all-action final act that Hot Fuzz becomes the action spoof the posters promised, and by then the transition into balls-to-the-wall shootouts can feel a little jarring, but make no mistake the action is brilliantly directed by Edgar Wright and provides some of the best gunplay seen so far in the new millennium. Hot Fuzz for my money is every bit as enjoyable as Shaun of the Dead and should be on any shortlist for the best action comedies of the decade.
The Disc: Universal’s BD presentation of Shaun of the Dead was impressive, but they’ve gone a few steps better and then some for Hot Fuzz. The 2.35:1 VC-1 transfer is reference quality, colour reproduction is absolutely gorgeous and every frame of the film is beautifully saturated with colours popping off the screen - from the lush greenery surrounding the village of Sandford to the colour of the actors’ eyes in close-ups, while skin tones are very natural and consistent. Image clarity is also excellent, mid-to-long shots have tremendous depth to them and exhibit an impressive amount of fine detail. This high level of fine detail is maintained in close-ups look, with the great clumps of facial hair on the visages of Edward Woodward, Stuart Wilson, and Timothy Dalton being intricately defined. There are no signs of any Edge Enchancements either.
Contrast and brightness levels appear accurate, like Shaun of the Dead many of Hot Fuzz’s scenes are white hot, which seems to be Edgar Wright’s preference. Surprisingly for a Universal title black levels are also spot-on and shadow detail is excellent. The print used isn’t completely spotless, as the occasional tiny fleck or pop appears throughout, but grain is kept to a barely perceivable layer that very rarely increases to a light, sharp layer in a few shots. If there has been any noise reduction applied then it is very well done, as I can only think of one, maybe two shots that appeared even remotely “waxy”. Compression is excellent, but there are minute levels of tiny noise in some of the darker regions of the image at times – it’s not enough to be particularly noticeable in motion (if at all), but it is just enough for me to mark the transfer down to 9/10 instead of a perfect 10. But still, I remember watching Hot Fuzz in theatres back in 2007 quite well and I can say with confidence that not only is this presentation faithful to how the film originally looked, it just might be an improvement!
The English DTS-HD MA 5.1 track is reference quality - there are none of the overzealous mixing issues that compromised Shaun of the Dead here. Instead we get an extremely expressive audio experience where every single element is delicately defined and balanced. Bass levels are high and forceful, giving the action sequence an impressive level of power, and the sound effects and score plenty of weight while dialogue is smooth, audible and clean throughout. Finally the 5.1 surround completely envelopes the viewer and effectively recreates the theatrical experience.
The amount of Extra Features is exhausting, and with the sheer amount of talent behind and in front of the camera working on this film you can bet almost every feature is going to provide a healthy laugh quota. There are 5 commentaries on the main feature itself, and you get to hear from almost the entire cast of Hot Fuzz across all of them, but you also have an excellent Wright/Pegg commentary which is much like the one they recorded for Shaun of the Dead, and an extra treat is a commentary with Wright/Tarantino which is a must for film geeks who want to check how many references/homages they managed to spot in the main feature. In The Evidence Room menu you’ll also find a wealth of informative behind-the-scenes featurettes, some comic strips that fill in plot holes from the film, and more curiously Dead Right: Edgar Wright’s 39minute student cop film which can be viewed as an almost embryonic Hot Fuzz (and also comes with 2 audio commentaries!). Another substantial extra is The Fuzzball Rally - Uncut, which is a feature-length documentary about the Hot Fuzz press tour, which again comes with its own amusing commentary. All extra features are in Standard Definition.
This is a stunning release, and the only real criticism I can make is that it is a Universal title and I’m sick to my back teeth of Universal Blu-ray discs which feature the intensely annoying and shoddily authored U-Control feature! Every disc with U-Control takes an eternity to load up and also crashes my PC every time I attempt to navigate around the disc for a while, it is truly obnoxious! The Hot Fuzz BD crashed my system every single time I tried to play the main feature using PowerDVD.