The sophomore slump is one of the toughest things in entertainment to avoid. Ultimately, the expectations are much higher for any artist following a breakout success, as they were for Edgar Wright, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg after Shaun of the Dead.
But the creative talents behind the revered horror comedy hit no such wall, and don’t fall into the oft-repeated trap of trying too hard to top previous endeavors. Instead, they opt to branch out, and the result is Hot Fuzz – an entirely different film in an entirely differently genre.
And it works.
Now on Blu-ray, Hot Fuzz makes the jump to high definition with a handsome set of extra features, and a gorgeous 1080p transfer.
It’s enough to make you fire your guns into the air and yell, “Aaaahhhh!”
Hot Fuzz, a natural extension of Wright, Frost and Pegg’s storytelling abilities, is equal parts love letter and biting satire. It works because the group mocks a smorgasbord of action films with sincere affection, and the gags are interwoven into a clever script with a clear focus on characters.
The film’s straightforward premise begins when the best cop in London, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg), is callously dumped out into the boonies when his outstanding arrest record threatens to embarrass his fellow inner city officers. In the small town of Sandford, Angel is something of a fish out of water, and constantly clashes with the local color.
Begrudgingly, he soon befriends local bafoon Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), a good spirited, but dimwitted beat cop obsessed with B-Grade action flicks. He romanticizes the police force in a way that would make Michael Bay (an obvious influence) blush, and turns out to be one of Sandford’s few, genuinely sincere citizens.
Angel and Butterman begin to investigate a series of deaths labeled “accidental” by their fellow officers, but believed to be linked homicides by Angel. There is a reluctance from the local precinct to accept Angel’s theory of “murder” (an obscure concept to Sanford’s finest), and Angel spends much of the movie learning how to connect with people.
It all culminates in one of the most entertaining and hysterical climaxes in recent genre history; a spectacle so over-the-top and incredible that it puts all other serious, modern day action films to shame.
The payoff works since the film is extremely reined in for the majority of its running time, relying heavily on character humor reminiscent of early Simpsons writing. It’s Angel, his fellow officers and the Sandford citizens that drive the film, not large action set pieces.
By the time Edgar Wright comes out guns ablazin’, you’re almost taken aback. Wright and Pegg masterfully setup the screenplay with subtle jokes and clever visual clues throughout, so when the film reaches its spectacular conclusion, the outcome is not just rewarding, but satisfying.
Frost and Pegg have a natural chemistry that traces its roots back to Spaced, and the duo continue to work harmoniously in this outing. Pegg, in particular, pushes his straight man routine to the limits, but Frost counters with genuine warmness in his role of comic foil. Their friendship is believable, and heartfelt.
Edgar Wright, first and foremost, makes stories about relationships and that continues to be his strength here. Its his two leads, and the colorful, layered cast of supporting characters that define the film – not explosions and bullets.
The commitment to storytelling and characters flies in the face of the same films Wright, Pegg and Frost try to advocate, but somehow, it all works out for the greater good.
Hot Fuzz gets a 1080p, 2.35:1-framed transfer that absolutely shines on Blu-ray.
Shot in Edgar Wright’s hometown of Wells, the film has a textured, organic look that benefits from shooting in real locations.
Director of Photography, Jess Hall, imbues the film with a rich color palette that pops in high definition. And the slick sheen and washed look of its contemporaries is thankfully absent.
The transfer itself is almost flawless, with spot on black levels, astounding clarity and minimal grain.
It will make you a believer.
From the moment the cherries start blaring in the background, Hot Fuzz impresses with a Dolby DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless track and never lets up.
The impressive mix balances crisp vocal audio with a magic bag of sound effects the fill the room – everything from punches to explosions.
Bond composer mainstay, David Arnold, lends his considerable talents to produce a score that sound reminiscent of some of the genre’s best.
Directional audio is well executed, and the climax benefits heavily from surround sound. Background audio is incredible; everything from city streets to pubs are given a added layer of liveliness and atmosphere.
Without a doubt, Hot Fuzz, already a rich audio experience, becomes a reference track on Blu-ray.
Hot Fuzz makes its way to Blu-ray on a BD-50 disc packed with so much supplemental material that Peter Jackson would be envious.
All the extra features from previous DVD releases have been crammed into one Blu-ray disc and then some.
We’re talking five commentary tracks (including one with Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright), twenty-two deleted scenes, outtakes, an endless amount of production diaries, storyboards, a full length (and uncut) documentary on the promotion tour, trailers, U-Control, D-Box and BD Live support.
It’s a dogpile of bonus material, and fans will be able to spend hours going through the commentaries, featurettes (detailing everything from costumes to effects) and video blogs.
The U-Control support allows viewers to peruse a pop-up trivia track (to assist those in spotting all the references) and storyboards.
Arguably, outside some of the terrific commentary tracks (Tarantino and Wright’s takes the cake), the cream of the crop is “The Fuzzball Rally” – a full length documentary on Wright, Pegg and Frost as they embark on a 10 city promotional tour.
The group’s unbridled energy and enthusiasm can’t help but put a smile on your face, especially considering the jaded nature of filmmakers nowadays.
All in all, the ridiculous amount of supplemental material makes the Blu-ray, by far, the definitive release of Hot Fuzz on home video.
Hot Fuzz succeeds at being both a deconstruction of modern day action films, and a terrific action flick in of itself.
Wright, Pegg and Frost expand their brand of satire, even going as far to frame specific shots in the signature style of some the genre’s most renown directors, to get extra mileage out of every scene.
However, the canny performers and their sharp director know better than to simply regurgitate memorable scenes from movies, something their peers seemingly forget.
The screenplay, from Wright and Pegg, is their most accomplished. It’s a tight, lean and clever script that doesn’t meander, nor is bogged down in disconnected bits with good intentions. Wright knows that friendship, like all great buddy cop movies, is what makes it work.
And – boy – does it ever.
Hot Fuzz is arguably more accessible than Shaun of the Dead, especially for Americans, and represents a significant step forward for Frost and Pegg as performers and Wright as a filmmaker.
It’s the crew’s most polished endeavor, and if it is to be their last (although rumors say otherwise), then it serves as one hell of a curtain call.
It’s only fitting that the film receives an equally impressive Blu-ray release.
Boasting one of the best transfers and audio tracks available on the market, Hot Fuzz is boosted by a laundry list of supplemental material that makes the Blu-ray an essential purchase for enthusiasts and fans alike.
You will not find a better overall disc in terms of content and presentation for the same cost.
It’s just that good.