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Hot Fuzz

Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) is one serious cop — the top Police Constable with London's Metropolitan Police, in fact, where he's managed to translate a university degree and a keen skill for theoretical analysis into an arrest record that's second to none. The problem is that he's a bit too good, or so he's told by his pencil-pushing superiors, who send him to the showers — or rather, the shires — when he's given a promotion to sergeant and then transferred to the modest village of Sandford, Gloucestershire, far from the criminal hustle and bustle of London's crowded streets. Arriving with little more than the Japanese peace lily he carefully looks after (indeed, it's his only real companion in life), Angel tries to settle in to his new surroundings, only to roust underage drinkers from a pub and haul them down to the police station in the middle of the night. It's the sort of 24/7 police work that doesn't sit well with local custom — as his new boss, Insp. Frank Butterman (Jim Broadbent), explains, the police serve the "greater good," and for the most part, Sandford's cops do things like chase down runaway swans and kowtow to the Neighborhood Watch Alliance, a group of local citenzry who are determined to win the annual "Village of the Year" competition by ridding the streets of panhandling performers (a "living statue" being their top concern of the moment). Meanwhile, Angel's new partner, PC Danny Butterman (Nick Frost), is the boss's son, and his primary concern isn't police work, but police movies, especially American ones. Angel insists that police work is far less exciting than the movies, but when a local solicitor and his mistress are found dead in a car wreck, the lack of skid marks at the scene gets Angel's attention. The subsequent deaths of an entrepreneur, a journalist, and florist convince him that something rotten's afoot. However, the Sandford Police Service isn't about to entertain theories of murder in a town that hasn't seen a killing in two decades. And they certainly aren't prepared to move against Angel's top suspect, supermarket owner Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton), one of the town's wealthiest and most respected businessmen.

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Writer/director Edgar Wright's Hot Fuzz (2007) offers one of the great delights in the movies, delivering not only a relentlessly clever two hours of escapist entertainment, but also by putting together an emerging group of talented folks who clearly enjoy working together, and doubtless will continue to do so. Building on the success of Shawn of the Dead (2004), Wright returns with stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, and this time instead of zombie movies, the trio aim their wit squarely at Hollywood policiers and action films — and, quite specifically, the highly kinetic work of director Tony Scott. The results are consistently funny, often with a visual flair that requires repeat viewings to catch every detail (such as how Pegg's police ID photo matches his face on screen, or the bizarre flow-chart in the Sandford Police HQ). However, it should be stressed that Hot Fuzz is no spoof. Movies that make sport of other, better-known movies always reveal a certain disdain for the genres they mimic, whereas Wright & Pegg (who co-wrote both Shaun and Fuzz) clearly love action films, and while first impressions might suggest they wanted to point out how silly big-budget Hollywood movies usually are, it soon becomes obvious that they really, sincerely, wanted to re-create something like Point Break and Bad Boys II, just set in a small English town (Wright's own hometown in Somerset was actually used for the shoot). It's the context of it all that makes Hot Fuzz a comedy, by dumping every movie cliché imaginable into a nondescript, rustic village, and Wright & Pegg's script is reinforced with a remarkable cast (one more familiar to British viewers than Americans) that includes, among others, Timothy Dalton, Jim Broadbent, and Edward Woodward, while the amusing Martin Freeman, Steve Coogan, and Bill Nighy play a trio Metropolitan Police superiors, and both Cate Blanchett and Peter Jackson have carefully disguised cameos. It may not be a British "Frat Pack" just yet, but movie fans are bound to want more from Wright, Pegg and Co., who effortlessly shift Hot Fuzz through various genres (policier, whodunit, horror movie, western, summer action) but never quite wink at the camera. Indeed, Pegg serves as the film's rock-solid center, and despite the bumbling partner, eccentric locals, and comic gore, he proves that you can't have high comedy unless the lead plays it as life-or-death drama.

Universal's DVD release of Hot Fuzz offers a splendid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) and Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Writer/director Edgar Wright and co-writer/star Simon Pegg deliver a feature commentary, illuminating nearly every backstory and sight-gag that crosses the screen, while other extras include "Hot Fuzz in the USA" with a look at the U.S. promotional tour (28 min.), 22 deleted scenes, an outtakes reel (10 min.), a "Fuzz-o-Meter" trivia track, storyboards, a look at edited dialogue for the TV version (3 min.), two trailers, two TV spots, and a few more amusing bits on the Bonus menu. Keep-case.

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