I think sometimes we’re too hard on the action genre. We expect groundbreaking stories and character depth, but the truth is sometimes it’s just satisfying to watch lots of stuff blow up to heavy-bass explosions. The genre is so riddled with clichés and formulas, it might not even be possible to be truly original anymore, so why not just enjoy being along for the mindless ride. That’s the approach Hot Fuzz seems to take, with a celebration of big bangs and explosions that takes advantage of action clichés with no apologies. But what else would you expect from the gang that gave zombie movies a similar celebration with Shaun of the Dead.
Hot Fuzz sets the stage for its primary character quickly. Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is a highly decorated and praised police officer. So high praised that he’s making the rest of the police station look bad, so they ship him off to another district “in the country.” There Angel befriends the buffoonish officer Butterman (Nick Frost), who is more enthralled with pictures like Point Break and Bad Boys 2 than real police work. Angel comes into conflict with the rest of the country policemen when he starts to feel recent “accidents” in their quiet town of Sanford might be part of something bigger than they consider it to be. Is Angel just a big city cop reading too much into things or are the people trying too hard to protect the stability and nature of their beloved small town?
In a nutshell, the plot for Hot Fuzz is one step shy of absolutely absurd, especially as the story starts to unfold. The truth is, it’s probably far more complicated than it needs to be. As with all action movies, the whole point of the story is to drive that story into the climactic, explosive fights. Once Hot Fuzz gets there it’s a load of fun, as absurd fight after absurd fight continues in one long streak. However, it takes a tad bit too long to get there as the movie tries to make a ludicrous plot just a little too believable.
Probably part of the reason for the suffering storyline is that the chemistry that Simon Pegg and Nick Frost carried through their previous endeavor, Shaun of the Dead is largely absent in this flick. There they were good, close friends – too losers in the world who understood each other. Here Pegg’s character is highly capable while Frost carries on the lovable oaf character, and, while it’s funny to watch the two interact a la Lethal Weapon or 48 Hours, it just isn’t the same. The chemistry isn’t enough to make this a buddy picture, which puts the focus on the back on the ridiculous story. Just blow some stuff up already!
The lessened chemistry doesn’t diminish Pegg or Frost’s abilities and they are both decent in their roles, with more kudos to Pegg for stretching himself into a new character. The duo are also surrounded by skilled actors who are obviously willing to put aside their accomplishments to have some fun. Jim Broadbent plays the lovable town police inspector to perfection, while Timothy Dalton’s conniving character is verging on mustache twirls in villainy. Paddy Consadine and Rafe Spall have fun as two antagonistic officers, and if you’re quick, you can catch two Academy Award winning actors, Peter Jackson and Cate Blanchett, in tiny cameo appearances (hint: look toward the beginning of the movie). If actors of this caliber are willing to take some time away from seriousness and appear in a movie whose climax involves a streak of gunfights that envelope the entire small town, why can’t everyone take time to enjoy it without needing a movie to be high drama as well as high action?
While Hot Fuzz doesn’t come near the brilliance that was Shaun of the Dead, the movie is still a lot of fun. It probably could have easily trimmed ten to fifteen minutes of plot exposition to get to the bang-bang a lot sooner, but even with as absurd a plot as this movie carries, it makes more sense than a lot of the other action flicks that try to be more serious. Enjoy the frivolity and count the sly references to other action franchises, because the Hot Fuzz are taking care of business.
It’s great to get a team like Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost who work so well together. The result is a DVD that is just as entertaining, if not more at times than the actual movie itself. Like its predecessor, Shaun of the Dead, the DVD release for Hot Fuzz is loaded for laughs with plenty of bonus material.
Starting with the film itself, there are three enhanced ways to watch this movie. There is the option to watch the movie with storyboards, where an icon appears on screen allowing you to branch off from specific scenes and view the storyboards for that sequence. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this as it interrupts the movie and storyboards typically aren’t that fun to look at. This is the kind of thing that would be better on a high definition release that allows you to view both simultaneously. There is a text trivia track tiled the “Fuzz-O-Meter” that reveals interesting tidbits about the movie. Finally there is a commentary from director Edgar Wright and Simon Pegg who wrote the movie together. I honestly think parts of the commentary might have made me laugh as much as the movie itself. The two of these working together on a script is probably pretty entertaining, especially as sleep deprivation and Red Bull kicks in.
There are over 20 deleted scenes, available with optional commentary to explain the cuts. There are also about ten minutes of outtakes and bloopers. The deleted scenes actually almost completely make sense. They would have fleshed out some elements of the movie more but, as I noted above, I think a lot of the story actually could have been watered down more, so removing character backgrounds and motivations is fine. The outtakes are hilarious though, again evidence of why Pegg, and Frost work well together.
For fans who liked “Funky Pete” on the Shaun DVD, included here is “Hot Funk”. The idea behind this featurette is a look at how the filmmakers provided a more network safe edit for use on television and airlines. The concept worked better in Shaun where scenes were laden with profanity and showing one scene really made their point. Here, instead of one scene, the feature jumps quickly through all the questionable material of the movie and shows how everything has been altered, from “funk” to “silt” to “peas and rice”, the language is much softer, although not as entertaining as before. Other altered material includes “The Man Who Would Be Fuzz” which is a quick sequence with Frost and Pegg playing their characters as if they were played by Sean Connery and Michael Caine, and “Danny’s Notebook: The Other Side” which shows the second flipbook cartoon that Frost’s character doesn’t show in the movie.
Finally, probably the most hilarious bonus piece on the DVD is “The Fuzzball Rally: US Tour Piece” which is a camera diary of Pegg, Wright, and Frost heading across the states to promote the movie. Along the way they dance like Justin Timberlake (who they see getting into a vehicle outside their hotel), flush cake down the toilet (it’s Frost’s birthday and he doesn’t feel like eating the multiple cakes he gets over a period of days), and pay off Harry Knowles on camera to talk about how good the movie is. The three men are like childish boys with the camera making the featurette, which is just shy of thirty minutes, a lot of fun to watch. Again, what sleep deprivation and Red Bull can’t accomplish.
The truth is, the behind the scenes material is almost better than Hot Fuzz itself because in many ways its just the trio that make these movies so much fun unleashed, instead of sticking to the scripted movie that weakened the bond for Frost and Pegg on screen. I particularly like that, with these DVD releases so stocked with extras (including an Easter Egg), it’s unlikely fans will get screwed over with multiple versions. Put all the funking extras in the first release and give fans what they want. Then go on and make the next movie and do it again – that’s the way to build a career and, despite a weaker turn out this time, that’s definitely working for Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Edgar Wright.